Chi Udaka – New Beginnings



In an energy packed performance of the taikoz drummers, interspersed with the grace of the dancers, the soulful seamless sounds of the shakuhachi, the cello and vocals, Chi Udaka stands alone in a space where worlds, genres, cultures and deep traditions collide.

Chi Udaka is not to be viewed as a collaborative work of two major traditions – Indian Classical Dance or Japanese drumming.  If you do so, you will be disappointed. If you try to understand it, you will be lost. In fact, it is to be viewed as one body of abstract work. Where each individual component is powerless on its own, but when placed along side its other, parallel harmonic sounds, layered rhythms, it begins to unravel a character spectacularly against the superimposed  amazing visual effects and lighting. This makes the entire experience of Chi Udaka utterly unique.

The central rhythmic vein in the performance is set in the beginning when Anandavalli’s nattuvangum (vocal percussion) meets beat to beat with that of the Taik Oz drummers. After which they take over. I would have liked to see Nattuvangam and the dancers come together along with the drummers at a later stage. However, abstract work is about exploring the unfamiliar. The sections when the dancers danced with the drummers drumming in layered beats would have been particularly challenging. The hues of Riley Lee’s shakuhachi and the cello with the choreography when the dancers representing the pulsating womb or revolving earth is spellbinding against the visuals of the flowing curtains and waterfalls – successfully creating a feel of new life, new beginnings.

The pounding powerful drums stand in contrast and dominate the grace of the dancers. The set design seems to emulate the atmosphere within temples. It comes to life embracing the performances like a cloak to create an amazing masterpiece very cleverly. The redesigned Chi Udaka presented at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta has been purposely worked to be held across different theatres in Australia says Dr John Napier, the cellist of the production. The finale when all musicians, drummers and dancers come together was well coordinated. The final simple yet effective ‘sanchari’ by Anandavalli, as the departing story teller for me was the icing on the cake.  .

Chi Udaka captures imagination and is one inspiring piece of work.