The Knocking Within at Arsenal Center for the Arts
Arsenal Center for the Arts Watertown, MA
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The Knocking Within at Arsenal Center for the Arts
"Captivating, mystical, fierce and brilliantly successful."(SMR Culture Plus, Montreal)
Inspired by research into the neuroscience of sleep and the anthropology of dreams, The Knocking Within weaves a portrait of two lovers and the nightmares that plague them, unveiling the violence that lies just beneath the surface. With influences from Capoeira to Bharata Natyam, American Sign Language poetry to Kalaripayattu, West African dance to a wide range of Contemporary forms, this work combines a dizzying array of movement vocabulary, woven together into a new language of the body. The piece calls into question the lines we draw between art forms, between cultures, even between methodologies.
The Knocking Within draws on texts from Shakespeare, arguably the most recognizable playwright in the English language in the world, including lines from Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Twelfth Night, Titus Andronicus and the sonnets, to effect a re-staging of theater, taking it decidedly into the realm of visual communication. The texts are present but implicit, creating a tension between the permanence of print, the persistence of imbedded cultural stories, and the immanent meaning-making power of bodies moving through space.
These texts, taken out of context and performed mostly in translation into Hindi or American Sign Language, conjure up entire narratives with just one line, one word, one gesture. The challenge for the audience is to use these references, but not to see these characters as the Shakespearean ones Macbeth, Othello, Ophelia but rather as two unnamed lovers who could be anyone.
The show was performed in India just after a horrific gang rape and murder had led to widespread protest against rampant violence against women. ANIKAI Dance Artistic Director, Wendy Jehlen, addresses this violence in the play, "So often we view these events as separate from ourselves. I hope that audience members will connect viscerally with the characters and carry this understanding into their engagement with real world violence."
Past audiences have responded strongly to the troubled relationship laid bare onstage. One audience member had this to say: "The Knocking Within is a very intense and personal experience. At one point during the show I noticed pain in my fingers. It was only then that I realized I had my hands clutched together, fingers interwoven, squeezing against my wedding ring. I was completely unaware of the physical response I was having to the tension unfolding on stage until my fingers went numb."
Wendy Jehlen's unique approach to movement incorporates elements of a wide range of dance styles including Bharata Natyam, Odissi and Kuchipudi, which she has studied for thirty years in India and the US; Capoeira, Kalaripayattu, West African dance, Butoh, and American and European Modern and Contemporary dance styles. Jehlen's work has been performed throughout the United States, Europe, India and in Japan. Her past works include Forest (2010), a glimpse into unpredictable world of the woods; The Moth (2007), commissioned by the Jahan-e-Khusrau festival in Delhi; He Who Burns (2006), a trio on the figure of Iblis (Satan); Dragon (2005), based on a Japanese folk tale about a girl who becomes a water dragon; Breathing Space (2003), a collaboration with Japanese choreographer Hikari Baba in Tokyo; Crane (2002), based on images from Japanese Buddhist poetry; Haaaa (2002), inspired by the experience of childbirth; Job 10 (1999), based on the tenth chapter of the Book of Job of the Hebrew Bible; and Becoming Fire (1998), an evening length work exploring texts from the Sufi traditions of Iran and South Asia. Another important element of Jehlen's work is collaboration with Deaf performers and poets. She uses both the language and aesthetic of American Sign Language poetry in her choreography, often collaborating with Deaf artists in the creation of bi-cultural works. Jehlen has received funding and recognition for her choreography from the Artist Grants Program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (2001, 2003),the Senior Performing Artist Fellowship program of the American Institute of Indian Studies (2001), the Ford Foundation/Arts International (1996), the Puffin Foundation (2001), the Tokyo American Center (2002), the National Endowment for the Arts(2005), the Fulbright program/United States Educational Foundation in India (2005-2006, the National School of Drama (2006, 2011), the Alliance Francaise de Madras (2006), Abhinaya (2011), the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (2011) and the Consulate General of Chennai (2011), among others. She is a 2011-2012 Brother Thomas Fellow of the Boston Foundation and a 2012 Choreography Fellow of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Pradhuman Nayak grew up in a family of folk performers in Jharkhand, India. He has toured in the US and throughout India with his family's folk troupe, Kunjban, performing traditional music, folk dance, and the mask-dance drama form of Chhau. Pradhuman has studied Chhau in depth with Manohar Kumar and Dinbandhu Thakur (Purulia style) and Shashidhar Acharya (Seraikela style). Pradhuman has studied Kalaripayattu under Guru Gopinathan of Trivandrum, Guru Subrathan of Trissur and Guru Shahji in Chennai. A graduate of the prestigious National School of Drama in Delhi, India, Pradhuman has appeared in numerous plays under the direction of some of the best-known Indian directors, as well as under directors from Japan, the US and Europe, including the world-renowned Robert Wilson. Pradhuman has played lead roles in award-winning films and theater works in India, including the international award-winning film "Baha." He has also performed in the Seattle International Children's Festival, Duluth Children's Museum, Harvard University, other US venues and throughout India with Kunjban: Chotanagpuri Folk Dance Troupe. Pradhuman has performed with ANIKAI at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, Dance Theater Workshop and Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Dance for World Community Festival, Boston Center for the Arts, BU Dance Theater and in cities throughout India. He has taught at Brown University, Barnard College, Tufts University, Ailey Camp Boston, Cambridge Ringe and Latin School, Cambridge Recreation, the Triveni School of Dance. He currently teaches in Boston and New York City.
Arsenal Center for the Arts (View)
321 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA 02472