Show and Tell #15 - Hemabharathy Palani

25 September 2017

Hemabharathy Palani is the choreographer of ‘Yashti’- a part of 2Faced Dance Company’s 'Outlands' performance.

An award-winning choreographer and dancer, Hemabharathy Palani is one of the most promising talents in contemporary dance today. Known for her fluidity and musicality, Hema is a dynamic choreographer and performer. On stage, her focus is hypnotic, drawing her audience into the story she weaves with her gracefully articulated movements.  This remarkable grace is derived from her classical training in Kuchipudi under Guru Smt. Sunanda Devi and Guru Smt. Vyjayanthi Kashi, and Bharatanatyam under Guru Smt. Minal Prabhu.

Hemabharathy Palani's work is deeply personal and evocative. Her movements are richly textured with elements from her further training in ballet, contemporary dance, Kalaripayattu, yoga and capoeira at the Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts. Hema has travelled to some of the biggest contemporary dance venues including the Barbican Centre (London), Mercat de les Flors (Barcelona) and Critical Path (Sydney). She has also completed residencies under mentors like Jonathan Burrows, during her Sadler's Wells Summer University programme in 2011.

Currently, Hema is the Rehearsal Director at the Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bengaluru, where she also works as a choreographer, teacher, and performing artist with the Attakkalari Repertory Company.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
For me, when you smile at someone and when they smile back at you, I would define that as 'perfect happiness'. Likewise, when you perform, you are giving something to your audience and they give back to you, it is my perfect happiness. It can be as simple as a baby's smile back at you when you smile. As a performer, I believe to give, take and share that simple smile means a lot.

What lies at the heart of your own desire to do your creative work?
As an artist, I have realised that the process is never ending. More and more I try to find out what is in me. I find new things in the depth of my heart. My desire is to find new things in the depths of my heart. I am in constant search of these depths and this is my desire to get to my choreography as well as my life. It is like swimming in the ocean to find its depth.

What are the first things you do in developing an idea in response to a subject?
Firstly I do, self alteration. I try to find out something that drives me crazy; they can be a question from society or one I have been asking myself. What is that something, that I need to unwind or reason. I pick out that subject and I am in constant search of its meaning and reasons for it. From that an idea evolves and I keep responding to the subject.  

What’s your favourite film and why?
I have more than one favourite movie. But I would like to talk about ' Avatar'. I like the fact that you can go to your dreams and an imaginary world with the help of a machine. We have two different lives; a life within our lives, this idea fascinates me. The movie talks about our roots and ancestry. I almost believe it is not fiction but very real. Also, the idea of a mother tree, a concept very close to one of my ideas for the current Outlands project, and that makes this movie one of my favourites and close to my heart.

Choose 1, 2 or 3 of your all-time favourite music tracks.
I have several. I like the Indian classical songs. I am a big fan of AR Rahman, especially his Tamil movie tracks which have a contemporary sound to them too. MS Subhalakshi's and Kishore's music are my other favourites.

From your favourite poem – could you give us a few lines that mean something to you?
I would like to pick few lines from the poetry from my latest project for Outlands which I have been working for a while: 'Yashti'.

O great deep ocean by Andal
English version by Vidya Dehejia, Original Language: Tamil
''O great deep ocean, he lord entered into you, ixed and churned you, eprived you of your nectar. hat lord of illusion ntered into me too, hurned me, eprived me of my essence. o to the serpent who is the lord's couch,
tell him of my endless sorrow hat he may plead for me.''

If you were to die and come back as a person, animal or a thing, what would it be?
I think I want to be a tree; a big banyan tree. It roots and spreads on the ground. The more it wants to die it becomes alive by giving more to others. It may not bear fruits but is always giving nevertheless. I have always admired the big banyan trees!

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I get turned on emotionally instantaneously. This is what paves way for my creativity.

Which artwork/film/book has most inspired you?
I love Frida Kahlo’s work as it speaks about the female body. She dissects the female body as a landscape. It reminds me a lot about my own journey in life. Her paintings inspire me a lot.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Making money is not a big deal. How you make money is what matters.

Best recent read?
As part of my research for Yashti to be seen during 2Faced Dance’s Outlands tour, I have been listening and reading a lot of poetry by Andal, one of the best-loved poet-saints of the Tamils. I feel my whole life as I read her work. Sharing few lines here - this has been extracted from a lot of poems, so my favourite lines from those here:

In morning's small hours we came to adore (from Tiruppavai)
by Andal
English version by Paula Marvelly, Original Language: Tamil
''In morning's small hours we came to adore hose golden lotuses, your feet: why? orn are we in the cowherd caste ut you must take us in your own employ. ot only for today do we seek your drum ut for ever and ever, seven times seven births! ould be one with you, work only for you — hange all our other wishes, Lord!''

The lotus is greeting the rising sun and the lily has closed its petals; (from Tiruppavai)
by Andal
English version by J. K. Mohana Rao , Original Language: Tamil
''The lotus is greeting the rising sun and the lily has closed its petals; earing their saffron robes and ashes, the ascetics are on their way to he holy temple to sound the auspicious conch; talkative girl, you, who boasted that you would be the first o wake us up, why don't you get up! e will sing the praises of the brave and the beautiful Lord bearing he conch and the wheel.''

A thousand elephants followed (from Nacciyar Tirumoli)
by Andal
English version by Vidya Dehejia , Original Language: Tamil
''A thousand elephants followed s Narana Nampi walked in state. he town was adorned ith flags and banners, t every threshold tood a blessed golden urn--- dreamt this dream, my friend. omorrow, auspicious day, he wedding will take place. great green awning stood dorned with shoots of palm and areca. ntered Madhava of leonine power he ox-like youth, Govinda--- dreamt this dream, my friend. ndra and hosts of gods arrived, hey blest me, hose me as bride. he wedding garb urga draped upon me, he decked me ith bridal garland--- dreamt this dream, my friend..''

What is your final word?
Keep dancing. Keep moving. Move what you can. Get moved by someone or something. Don't stop moving. In life too, keep moving without stopping!