Chhaya Collective review

By Mathilda Douglas, 6.2

Last Friday, Chhaya Collective came to Bedales to perform their amazing dance performances HYMNOS and KHAOS as part of the Bedales Events programme. Chhaya Collective are a female-led dance company working between UK and India. Their company was founded by Kay Crook in 2013 to engage artists in cross-cultural collaborative performance and creative projects, in response to societal issues. Their performance strives to amplify women’s voices and share real-life stories of women in the 21st century. In their performance they combined dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. There was a live band on stage which included a violinist, percussionist, and guitarist. 

HYMNOS was inspired by the story of Iranian artist and friend Saba Zavarei and her online platform Radio Khiaban, dedicated to Iranian women singing in the public spaces of Iran, an act currently forbidden by the state. HYMNOS was in the form of a duet, one woman relating to a traditional Iranian woman in society and the other woman was the Wild Woman. The Wild Woman was showing the other that it was acceptable to break from society and wanted to show her how to do it. They did this by the use breath within their flow of movements. They used contact to travel around the stage which helped opened each other up. Their movement got wider and more expansive as the piece went on, which showed the journey of breaking away from society. They used found sound and voice, where both women would either be screaming linking with the lighting in the piece or singing melo notes connecting together as one. It seemed the screaming linked with the feeling of annoyance towards the Iranian government and how their rule of singing in public shouldn’t be allowed. 

KHAOS describes itself as “not neat, nor calm, nor perfect, but vibrant, chaotic and powerful – we are wild 21st century women. We are not to be gazed upon but met head on”. This quote was their subject matter for their piece which celebrates what it is to be a woman. The live musicians join six contemporary dance artists to revel in the joy, tenderness, and the power of wild women. During this piece, there was direct correlation between the dancers and the musicians. Every time the musicians would increases or decrease their sound/intensity the dancers’ movements would get bigger or faster or decrease and become slower.

In the first part of this piece, all the women were dressed in grey coats that were tight fitted, showing no flaws of their body. There was the main female who would be controlling the other women, to show them how women are pictured/presented. They showed how women should always be perfect and should not expressed any feeling/emotion. They always had to have their arms by their hips in a fist shape and chins up. When travelling around the stage, they had to shuffle their feet in small movement to show control within their movement and there was very little dance material happening. At one moment, they were all trapped in a small circle centre stage where they all had a centra poised feeling towards them. Once the women knew how to hold themselves properly, it became harder to maintain this position as they all got very tired, proving it difficult for the leader who was controlling them.

At this moment the music stopped, and all dancers fell to the floor, the sudden silence showed that the women were tired of trying to be perfect all the time and this feeling had to stop. The violinist woke up the dancers and they took their grey costumes off to reveal bright/vibrant patterns. Once their realised that they could be whoever they wanted to be and show their true feelings they started to accept one another. They performed free flowing movements in a circle to unite everyone together. The music grew and their movement became more expressive. They performed a series of jumps with the use of breath which showed the women accepting themselves and showed their true colours. They started to scream to show their happiness with the accompany of the fast-beating music and overall had a high energy to end the performance.