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RAD TIMES INTERVIEW: Theatre Director Kanchan Avchare chats LAYATA and flow of life!

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Kanchan Avchare is an award-winning theatre performer, maker, researcher and instructor. Kanchan has developed methods and practices inspired by traditional forms like Kathakali, Kudiyattam, and Bharatnatyam, for which she received the prestigious INLAKS Grant Award in 2019. During the pandemic, she worked on site-specific theatre, for which she received the KCC (Kolkata Centre for Creativity) Art Fellowship. Her solo play, 'Happily Tagged Ever,' won an award in Pune Expressions Lab.

Layata, which means flow, introduces her work methods based on breath and movement exercises from traditional art forms like Kalaripayattu, Kathakali, and Yoga.

It is a practice that will help individuals reclaim and channel their energy by gaining control over their movement and stillness. It will lead to more presence on stage for performers and awareness of body and mind for all.

Kanchan’s oeuvre is available to browse here:

https://www.youtube.com/@rayaroththeatrehouse

Image Source: Kanchan Avchare



Q1.) How did you first conceive of LAYATA?


Kanchan Avchare: Usually My workshops are named differently as per the need of the hour, the participating people, the space, the budget, everything matters. So to say the soul of the work stays the same but the body changes. In Pune, I have felt the need for body and movement work for actors, dancers, artists, and professionals of different fields. The word layata comes from the flow, the Laya, which is the unbroken movement, not controlled by the laws, societies, and peer pressures but is a freedom of being for an individual. So Layata happened in Pune for this need and it has all the practical as well as spiritual exercises that I have learned in my artistic life in Mumbai and Kerala.

Q2.) What is a flow to you? The flow of movements, Flow of emotions, or life energy?


Kanchan Avchare: A flow for me is an uninterrupted freedom of being, it's not just about movement but also about stillness that we have forgotten about because of the lifestyles, the races, and the norms we are part of. But being an actor my search for low comes from the body and its movement, then it reaches to the mind as a feeling, or emotion. The last stage is my soul or to say energy, prana. We have incorporated various exercises to tap the flow at all three levels.


Q3.) What is the commonality between a movement for dance and a movement for theatre for you?


Kanchan Avchare: The movement for dance is an unbroken line of movement while for theatre the movement is in parts from one action to another there is a thought, an inner dialogue that decides the next move and we need it in theatre so as to make sense of our movement. One more thing to add is imagination, actors need a lot of it to live a story, or scene as truthfully as possible. While dance is about the passion for movement, theatre is about the passion for thoughts, intentions.


Q4.) How many cities in the country have you taken this workshop?


It has been done in Kochi, Trivandrum, Jabalpur, Mumbai, and Pune. I wish to take it to more people especially young actors and artists in universities and institutions.


Image Source: Kanchan Avchare


Q5. ) Does the architecture of a venue /space matter while doing such a workshop?

Kanchan Avchare: Yes, the space is one of the basic elements that add quality to the movement, if it’s a closed space, we have to be well-planned for the exercises that need space, in open we have to take care that the openness doesn’t dilute the movement work intensity.


Q6.) What are the most basic primary human movements to you: running, swimming, walking, hand gestures?

Kanchan Avchare: I believe moving along the spine is the most basic primal movement that a newborn learns in her/his early months of life, the first movement forward is through the spine. Even swimming, running, and walking needs spine movement. The whole knowledge of our movement all our life is stored in our spines.



Image Source: Kanchan Avchare

Q7. ) Does Layata help in catharsis? Kanchan Avchare: Yes, it will reach the depths of the being, it might touch differently to different people as to how they are coming from, and how much they are open to being vulnerable. In the sessions, I try to make them as open and free as possible to not understand the exercises but feel them through the body. And catharsis is about being able to reach inside and feel what it is to be human. Q8.) What is contact improvisation to you? It is a form of contemporary dance. Kanchan Avchare: For me, contact and improvisation are two different aspects of acting, the contact with the space and the body with others around, co-actors or audience. Improvisation occurs when they come in contact, I believe in this definition, I feel even the dance form of contact improvisation tells a story, or I also feel every movement is a story in happening.




Image Source: Kanchan Avchare

Q9) Some thoughts /observations on participants who came for your workshop? Kanchan Avchare: It was a more intimate kind of workshop for me. Yes, more numbers would mean more funding support but it's not always possible. We wanted more time to reach the depths of breath and movement and that could happen. Usually in my workshop, there are many teachers, students, and housewives and this work gives them strength and knowledge movement, enriching their lives.



 

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