What is common between Bharatanatyam and Butoh, a Japanese art form? Not much apparently because on the one hand, the ancient Indian classical dance form Bharatanatyam is all about rigid postures and straight lines and at the same time is colourful, expressive and tells us stories of the mighty Gods. On the other hand, Butoh originated after World War II, rebels against fixity, is as grotesque as they come and doesn't hold back while addressing taboo topics like homosexuality, menstruation, sex and other topics that might prompt more than a few tasks.
And here is Patruni Chidananda Sastry, a trained classical dancer fascinated by Butoh, so much so that he is trying to integrate the mudras and abhinayas of Bharatanatyam with the distressed and message-driven art form that is Butoh. Why, you ask? There is an interesting backstory to this.
Though his parents are from Visakhapatnam, Patruni was born and brought up in Kolkata. He took to Bharatanatyam at the age of seven and was bullied incessantly for it, especially while he was pursuing his engineering from Saroj Mohan Institute of Technology. All this because he was a male classical dancer. "My sexuality was also questioned many a times ," sighed the 25-year-old who will turn 26 in two days. So he started researching and came across movements like Neoclassicism, Expressionism and eventually Butoh.
"In Bharatanatyam, your postures have to be perfect and straight, but I always used to ask myself, what if they are not? What if I don't dress in all the finery? How will that be perceived by the audience?"
He found all his answers in Butoh. He got on touch with Adam Koan, a Butoh practitioner and started performing what he calls Butonatyam, an integrated dance form with elements from both Bharatanatyam and Butoh.
While the expressions and hand movements are of the most famous Indian classical dance, he still dresses like a Butoh performer and talks about taboo topics through his dance. All this because, "As an artist, my job is not just to step out of my comfort zone, but also pull the audience out of theirs," says Patruni, who is pursuing a distance course in MA in Bharatanatyam and in March, will leave for Himalaya SubBody Butoh School in Dharamshala to gain a deeper understanding of Butoh.
Meanwhile, he has been performing Butonatyam since two years and will continue to do so while on a tour with Adam Koan in cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and more this December. This tour is to sensitise the audience about Butoh. This, we are promised, is like a breath of fresh air in a society which expects you to be perfect. Patruni, who works with Deloitte in Hyderabad, describes this feeling wonderfully by saying, "I want to be perfectly non-perfect."
This performance is about pansexuals, intersexuals and asexuals, stories of which he drew from the life of Sufi musician Amir Khusro, the Greek God Pan and from the Ramayana
This was about gender lines and how society doesn't accept certain genders
On World AIDS Day and in association with the Telangana State Association, he performed a piece on safe sex, taking the stigma out of condoms
Navrasas of Butoh
Which he performed with Koan
(This article was originally published in Edexlive)