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First Weeks in Madurai

(photo: Randee, Sekar, Vidya, Veena at the CM Centre)

The CM Centre is on a red dirt road. There is a tree that weeps white flowers. And just before it rains a million dragon flies congregate in the next door lot.

I wrote that my first day here, almost six weeks ago. The rainy season has passed, the dragon flies are gone, and the lot next door has three new houses going up. This neighborhood is developing fast. Here is what has transpired since I have arrived...

I am staying at Madurai’s Chella Meenakshi Centre, run by Dr. V.A. Vidya and J.Rajasekaran, and a staff of wonderful women. CM Centre is located in P&T Colony, northwest Madurai, which, in ’82-83 was an outlying suburb of fields, populated by post and telegraph workers (hence “P&T Colony).

What a pleasure to meet and get to know the other scholars who come to stay at the CM Centre, so far all Americans, professors/researchers and visitors who have connections to Sekar and Vidya through various programs of study over the years. The CM Centre facilitates workshops and conferences on a range of topics; this last month I co-taught a dance workshop with a Bharatanatyam dancer; there was a weeklong puppeteering workshop and final performance; a roundtable of NGO directors; and a conference of Tamil teachers discussing pedagogy.

(photos: CM Centre classroom and movement spaces)

(photo: CM Centre courtyard and movement space)

A snapshot of my life here so far: These first three months I am training mornings and evenings at the Simashan Institute, 3-4 hours per day. The first two weeks were to learn basic Silambam footwork, then I got my stick and started learning stick rotations (future posts will feature Silambam, my teachers, and the training program).

(photo: Simashan Institute roof top training space)

Afternoon hours between training are for my own continuous work and research; Tamil classes with Vidya and Tamil studies on my own; rehearsing for upcoming performances; errands and logistics; reading and writing.

(photo: my room and bed at the CM Centre)

I shipped a stack of books to myself here, first up has been Dr. Elaine Craddock’s 2010 book Siva’s Demon Devotee: Karaikkal Ammaiyar. Elaine and I roomed together in Madurai in 1982-83 and have remained close friends since. I have long admired Elaine’s work, research and gorgeous writing and, 10 pages in, am already bowled over by her book. I am reading Elaine's work in part with a loose idea toward new choreography, questions about how the body thinks in Tamil.

(CM Centre Movement Study: 'Bats and Mosquitoes')

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