TANUSHREE GANGOPADHYAY, The Hind Jan 18,2013
A dance to commemorate women battling gender violence.
Elizabeth is as good as her word. Recently in India, she described her project ‘Women with Broken Wings’: “There are so many war memorials the world over. All of them are for men. There’s no space to commemorate the billions of women whose lives are snuffed out, who are raped or are victims of other kinds of gender violence.” Her memorial (womenwithbrokenwings.org) strives to raise global consciousness on crimes against the women “whose wings were broken. With this simple action, we shall help remember and bring about a change.” She relates a poignant story of a Lebanese teenager who had expressed her admiration for the Web site. Ironically and tragically, a month later she became a victim of honour killing by her brother.
In the backdrop of the murderous gangrape in Delhi recently and the fury in its wake, Elizabeth’s collaborative ballet with renowned Indian danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, director of the Ahmedabad-based Darpana Dance Academy, comes at the right time.
Titled ‘Women with Broken Wings’, it premiered in Ahmedabad last fortnight. Pointing out that violence against women remains unabated. Mallika says her experience of three decades had convinced her that more than “serious talk” cultural programmes worked better in raising public consciousness. Her dance, accompanied by Elizabeth on the piano, portrays the 11 states of mind of the assaulted woman — birth; discovery and exploration; the inner and outer worlds; unknown fears and self-discovery; betrayal and breakdown; lament; fleeing and failing; the soul’s cry; the march of the martyrs; consolation; and, finally, the way forward.
The performance, choreographed by Yadavan Chandran and Mallika Sarabhai, held the audience spellbound. One vignette depicting carefree childhood, where Mallika enacts a girl playing hopscotch, is particularly poignant. Elizabeth’s rendition of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 17, The Tempest, was apt for the section ‘Unknown Fears and Self-Discovery’. Her interpretation of Chopin for both ‘Betrayal and Breakdown’ and ‘Lament’ was truly extraordinary. The ‘March of the Martyrs’ was followed by silence in a mark of respect. The performance ended on a positive note, with ‘The Way Forward’ exuding hope.
The work resonated perfectly with the One Billion Rising (OBR) international campaign against violence spearheaded by renowned playwright and actor Eve Ensler. As Mallika explains, “Our common interest got us to collaborate and participate in the OBR campaign.” She now plans to organise a garba dance by over 20,000 people, including children, to mark the culmination of OBR on February 14, also celebrated as Valentine’s Day or the international day of love.
“Since the OBR call is to dance against violence, garba is the most relevant in Gujarat, and artists will compose songs for us. Every woman here dances it during Navratri. Gujarat is a State where hundreds of rapes take place, where innumerable women are burnt because of dowry, and where violence on women is rapidly increasing. This is also a State where lots of villages are without girls because of rampant sex-selective abortions. We need to end this genocide and gendercide urgently, and we are using our abilities and art to do this,” she says.
The ballet performance in Delhi last week was followed by Eve Ensler’s dramatic rendering of vignettes from her play I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, at an event hosted by Sangat, which is coordinating OBR’s South Asia campaign. The ballet next travelled to Chandigarh (Punjab) and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala).
Delighted with the collaboration, Elizabeth stresses that there is no place for ego in music: “I dedicate every note to each woman who has suffered violence, and there are at least 100,000 notes in a ballet like this. So I believe I am honouring 100,000 women each time I play it.”
© Women’s Feature Service
- One billion rising against gender violence (newint.org)
- Scream if you are being sexually harassed, says Eve Ensler #Vaw (kractivist.wordpress.com)