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Motions and emotions

Shalaka Nalawade
Thursday, May 29, 2014 AT 08:12 PM (IST)

Shalaka Nalawade attends a Butoh performance by Delhi-based artists — Ankur Pandey and Akshi Khandelwal and learns more about the whole sub-body consciousness that the art form symbolises

It seems just like any other art show in the city, except that it’s not! ‘Uprooting the Aboriginals’ - an art show by Snehal Kulkarni Dutt at Sudarshan Hall, in Shaniwar Peth is different. Her multifaceted artworks comprise paintings -- some done in water colours, others in ink on paper, also sculptures, installations and so on. She aims at conveying the state of 21st century human and the changes he’s made to nature which in turn have destroyed all that is alive and organic. The young artist has gone an extra mile to ensure that her work stands out. Snehal brought artists Ankur Pandey and Akshi Khandelwal to perform Butoh which will drive the message home.

As we wait for the performance to begin, one of the artworks beckons. At first glance, it seems like an ashen leafless stem of a tree perched upon few rocks, but as you continue to stare at it, it begins to reveal itself. The branches fade into anthropomorphic shapes that seem like they are crying out for help with their faceless bodies. ‘Uprooting the Aboriginals’ narrates the stories of dislocated humans as well as that of nature that is struggling to adapt to the man-made destructive changes. In the midst of all this, like two parts of the giant centre-piece, emerge two life forms - Ankur and Akshi - veiled together by a single piece of black cloth. We brace ourselves for a never before experience...

As their bodies slink, move, contort and writhe across the floor, we get the actual meaning of what Ankur had said earlier during the day. “Butoh,” he said, “is a naked form of performance, where the audience are a part as well.”

“Butoh began as a reaction to western concept of beauty. It challenged the notion of beauty,” Ankur informs. A quick google search will reveal that Butoh is a Japanese art form that began in 1950s. “It’s spread all over the world now and everywhere the method of practising it differs,” says Akshi adding “What we perform is the Sub-body Butoh. Sub-body is the subconscious body. The sub-body method has been developed by Rhizome Lee, a Japanese butoh practitioner and founder of Subbody Butoh Foundation, Dharamshala.” That’s where Akshi studied it. And now along with Ankur, she not only performs Butoh but also holds seminars and workshops to spread awareness about this meditative dance form through their studio Quiet House in Delhi.

A Bengaluru-based Bharatnatyam dancer by training, Akshi first heard about Butoh from her teachers. “I did some research about it, looked at some photographs and I completely resonated with it,” Ankur came into the picture as a musician. “I met her and we decided to collaborate. I was making music at that time and we wanted to do something with her dancing and my music. And Butoh just called me. I learnt with her for about eight or nine months. Then I went to school to study it in a deeper way,” he informs.

Butoh performances, according to both of them, always attracts mixed reactions from the audience. “Sometimes people are completely awed by it, sometimes there is fear, sometimes people make fun and sometimes they feel pain. It always incites an emotional response from the audience,” Akshi adds before wrapping up the conversation.


If you want to see Butoh, artist Snehal Kulkarni Dutt and curator Rucha Kulkarni have videographed a few performances by the duo - Ankur Pandey and Akshi Khandelwal, which will be played constantly on a screen at the venue. The performance aids the understanding of Snehal’s artworks which is being exhibited at Sudarshan hall, near Ahilya devi High School, Shaniwar Peth till June 6 from 11 am to 8 pm.


The performance enchanted us into believing everything that was happening in front of us. In moments, Ankur and Akshi, their male and female life forms dissolving into nothing less than life itself, seemed like sobbing cats, to swans caught up in swamp, to doves entangled in strings to alligators doing their death rolls to seeds germinating from the womb of the earth. Then there came a point when all of us in the audience let go off our futile efforts to try to make sense of the performance and symbols and enjoy the madness that lay in front of us. Butoh is naked because it can’t be described or leashed into the more normal rules of dance performances we know of.

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