Imagine floating through a mystical, meditative world with yoga postures, flowing movements and trashing guitars.
Come Monday, that’s what Tripsichore Yoga Theatre intends to showcase at its one-night show, The Fallen, to be staged at PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya in Selangor. It celebrates yoga philosophy and extraordinary physical prowess, giving the age-old discipline of yoga a sensual, modern twist.
The London-based company combines the spirituality of yoga with acrobatic agility and grace. What makes it even more interesting is that the performances are driven by music from British guitarist BJ Cole and chillout act Lagoon West.
Comprising dancers, actors and yoga practitioners, Tripsichore Yoga Theatre, founded in 1979, presents the history of yoga into the world of contemporary theatre. Initially, the company was devoted to creating full-length dance narratives, exploring stylistic forms like punk ballet, conventional modern dance and neo-classical techniques. But it has evolved into using yoga as an expressive tool.
The outfit has since become one of the most extraordinary innovations to emerge from the yoga discipline. This contemplative style of movement theatre is a sensual exploration of spirituality that unites the mind and body. The breath guides the body through a safe, fluid flow of postures that creates stunningly spectacular visual poetry.
“The postures intrinsically possess a sumptuous beauty and fluidity. They are the ideal vehicles to express the themes of harmony, balance, spirituality, ecstasy, bliss and mysticism because they are exactly about these subjects. We are now many years into this experiment, which each day brings new discoveries,” says Edward Clark, Tripsichore Yoga Theatre artistic director.
In The Fallen, Clark will be performing with British dancer Nikki Durrant, who comes from an athletic background and joined the company in 2007.
“Nikki ‘gets’ the technique and understands what it is for – the creation of theatre pieces,” says Clark of his fellow artiste. “She’s proven to be a rather versatile performer. She’s at the top of her form and one of very few people who have the wherewithal to perform yoga theatre.”
The plot revolves around two characters: a bored despot who is dissatisfied although he has everything, and his loyal councillor. They appear on a balcony (sort of like Juan and Eva Peron) to announce their plans for a war, but the war proves a complete disaster – their side is decimated and the duo are forced to flee and find sanctuary at a river.
Since Tripsichore’s theatre work remains essentially a narrative, yoga postures and movements are used in the choreography to show what the characters are experiencing internally.
“It is, I hope, like getting a view of what their spiritual landscape looks like – not of a realistic depiction of a situation, but an insight into what their emotional, intellectual and imaginative worlds look like,” says Clark.
Asked whether conservative gurus approve of what Clark’s company is doing, the artistic director lets out a chuckle.
“We’re probably amongst the most technically orthodox practitioners … maybe we’re the ones deploring what is happening to yoga these days. Regardless of who is sighing with despair and tut-tutting about whose yogic path is the true and only real path, it really is funny that people in the yoga world would be horrified by this. What a strain of yoga puritanism there is contaminating the whole business!
“The history of yoga, much of which is extremely speculative, certainly shows that the practitioners of yoga and the purposes of the practice have been the province of rebels and innovators, and the canons of yoga texts abound with contradictions,” he asserts.
Clark began studying yoga in 1979 and lists Narayani and Giris Rabinovitch as his noteworthy teachers. He has a huge admiration for the Ashtanga Vinyasa, Sivananda, Iyengar and Viniyoga practices.
In addition to constant touring, teaching and performing globally, in 2006, he released a double DVD set devoted to explaining the practice, with recordings of some of Tripsichore’s repertoire and in 2007, Clark co-released a double comedy CD called Kill The Guru.
“For The Fallen, we’ve divided the work differently. We vetted a lot of music and eventually chose the pieces that we each would be in charge of. We had decided early on to pursue a theme of ‘fallen gods’ which gave us a lot of latitude, but seemed to fit with a number of ideas we had been discussing such as redemption, innocence, experience, honour, possession and things people do for excitement or to give meaning to their lives. Our conclusions have not been necessarily pleasant, but the resolution is upbeat,” adds Clark.
The Fallen features music by pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, Mark Vernon and Martin McDougall.
“In some respects, there is a more ‘classical’ sound for this performance, but we do like some dirty guitar to feature! Good soundtrack doesn’t always make for listening on its own – it is meant, instead, to accompany and enhance,” says Clark.
Tripsichore hopes the audience will consider the redemptive quality of love and creativity.
“It is amusing that the current generation of yogis often prove less adept as audiences than the non-initiate to yoga. They seem to be looking at whether there are some new tricks or posture they can try later, or whether or not that’s a most impressive lift into a handstand whereas those who don’t know yoga are able to evaluate it more in terms of what is going on for the characters,” he surmises.
The Fallen will be staged at PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, Selangor on Oct 12 at 8.30pm. Ticket cost: RM50. Parental advisory: 12 years and above. For more details call 03-7960 0439, 017-2289 849 or browse www.pjlivearts.my.