Not the time to speak 
- Aniruddh Vasudevan, Chennai 
Photos: Lalitha Venkat 

December 6, 2004

Nothing had prepared me for what I witnessed on the fourth day of The Park’s The Other Festival. The experience was, no doubt, so intensely subjective that I hesitate now to generalize it and deliberately use the “I.” Denise Fujiwara, in her solo Butoh presentation of “Sumida River,” had a certain effect on my heart that can only be likened to some internal vacuum suction (how prosaic!). At the end of it all, I felt nullified and anything but able to verbalize the experience.  Afraid that it all sounds like a negative experience, I hasten to add that it was not. The tragedy initially made one heavy and then gradually emptied itself and left one at peace. 
The distraught mother removes her beautiful black hat and holds it to her side and there it is for you to see- her child! The child, the loss of whom has pushed her to the brink of sanity and then pushed her further. 
Denise later snatched the words from my mouth (or rather my pen) and explained how there is very little of “dance” - as the word is normally understood - in Butoh. But even the sitting, standing, crouching and gliding were done with such internalized energy that the result was an absolute concentration and tightness. Each step and each small flick of the arm had drama in them. 
The woman handles the willow branches as if they were the memories of something long gone. Holds them, caresses them, drops them, picks them up again, struggles to catch the other end while holding one, as though the other end is very far away; as though at the other end is what she is seeking; what she has lost. Is that the glow of motherly love on her face and her limbs, the concentrated essence of vatsalya, as she slips into reminiscences and relives some cherished moments with her child! 
Denise was not “expressing” something. She was most certainly doing something else that is beyond my poor critical vocabulary to explicate.  

Though the turnout was quite good, I felt sorry for the thousands of Chennai dancers who had missed out on something rare and precious. 


Aniruddh Vasudevan is a Bharatanatyam dancer based in Chennai.