The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Frenchman’s footwork for local bard’s lines

The show will comprise a collection of Shakti Chattopadhyay’s poems, chosen by Joy Goswami, put together by Chetna Jalan, performed by Padatik and choreographed by a Frenchman.

The seeds for ‘An evening of Shakti Chattopadhyay’ were sown a few months ago when Gilles Chuyen met Chetna in Delhi, where he has been living for the past eight years. She brought him to Calcutta to work on a project with Padatik. “About 10 days ago, she had a sitting, where Shakti’s poems were read, in Bengali and in English,” Chuyen says. “And it clicked from the first moment. The feelings are so strong, and there is an undercurrent of several emotions. The images just came to me while I was listening to the poems.”

The dance interpretations of works like Aami Swechhachari, Ki Hoyechhe, Or Dike Takao and Chhinno Bichhinno have been choreographed by Chuyen and Deb Kumar Paul, set to Rahul Guha Roy’s compositions and will be performed by nine dancers from Padatik and a solo piece by the Frenchman.

“It’s a combination of Western styles and Kathak. Normally, I feel Kathak as a dance form is too honey-sweet. But in this case, we have mostly used the footwork, which is very strong, and so portrays the poems’ power quite well. The music, too, is a combination of the traditional and the contemporary,” Chuyen explains about Wednesday’s show at the Academy of Fine Arts.

The man who is adept at most forms of dance, including ballroom dances like jive, tango, salsa, waltz and modern ballet and has also learnt Chhau Mayurbhanj at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, has performed all over India, from Delhi to Goa and Calcutta. “Last time I was here, it was just for a couple of days for a show. Now, I have been here for nearly a month, and I love it. I do meet mostly artists and performers, but, at the risk of sounding cliched, Calcutta is a very civilised and cultured city, aesthete and knowledgeable. Even taxi drivers know Tagore’s works. I was warned by my friends that this city is very Bengali-oriented. But that doesn’t stop people from appreciating other cultures and art forms,” observes Chuyen, dressed in white kurta-pyjama.

Drawing parallels between French and Bengali culture, he dwells on the love for fine wining and dining, “and, of course, sweets in particular,” he smiles. “Also, literature and music. In fact, in the West, most people are familiar with the works of various famous Bengalis. I had read about Calcutta, and I am definitely delighted with what I have found.”

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