Layapriya – 1998
Layapriya is the Sanskrit term for “one who loves rhythm”, defined as everything from the musical concept of the word to the essence of time in the broadest sense.
As Robert Johnson, of Tanssi Magazine, noted, “Decorative hand gestures, and an occasional step suggest borrowings from the rich storehouse of Indian tradition, yet these references are smoothly and organically absorbed into the contemporary idiom in a manner that attests not only to Jonathan Hollander’s detailed observation of East Asian styles, but also to real understanding and assimilation.” The dance is an exploration and celebration of life and is a tribute to music by dancers, and a tribute to the dancers by their choreographer.
Previewed in New York City in October, 1997, and premiered in 1998, Layapriya has since become a classic in Battery Dance Company’s repertoire. It has been performed throughout the U.S., India, Hungary, Poland, Finland and as part of Battery’s 2002 Baltic Tour.
The thirty-minute work features a score by Finland’s great contemporary composer Eero Hämeenniemi, recorded by the Helsinki Philharmonic (Jurjen Hempel, conductor) with guest soloists Karaikudi R. Mani, mridangam & vocals with G. Harishankar, V. Vasan and SS. Kannan. Lighting by Pat Dignan, and costumes by Noelle Braynard.
“‘Foreigners’ dancing Indian is something that can make any even slightly informed and intelligent watcher nervous. Hollander’s Indian links come out loud and very clear in Layapriya… very cleverly, he has taken the distillate of the Indian and used it in a way that is very American, if not global. The hand gestures and rhythms are essentially Indian, but so stylized and contemporised that they go far beyond the banal usage of mudras and tala patterns into something that transcends cultural identity and erases any vestige of stereotyping.”
“Charged on a Battery! Dance lovers were treated to the intricacies of Indian classical dance integrated with western ballet. Hollander is no stranger to Bangaloreans, as also his 25-minute marvel Layapriya. This ‘poetry-in-music’ never fails to touch the right chord.”
“The eclectic mix may be traced to Mr. Hollander’s strong interest in cultural exchange and collaboration. As seen in this preview of “Layapriya,” Hollander can absorb the images of Indian dance to create an abstract vocabulary of his own. The score, heard on tape, is the Finnish composer Eero Hämeenniemi’s complex and haunting melange of a Western orchestra and South Indian musicians.”
“A task for the lover of rhythm: Collaboration between Hollander and Hämeenniemi is a success… Hollander has been able to make use of Indian movement patterns in his choreography, and to mold them into his own, refined style. The dance displays the same kind of persistent energy as the Indian musicians’ playing.”
“In life everything has its own rhythm. In order to maintain harmony with time, it is enough to find one’s inner music and live according to it. The American artists of New York-based Battery Dance company successfully cast a spell on this truism in “Layapriya” The artists unite with the rhythm of nature itself, reaching a mystical Nirvana. There is nothing beyond!”
“The choreography displayed the highest and most variegated techniques of American Modern Dance.”
“When the Finnish composer and the American choreographer met a couple of years ago, music and movement found one another. The cooperation between Battery Dance Company from New York and the Finnish composer Eero Hämeenniemi results in delicate, ethnically complex art.”
“Jonathan Hollander proved he and his Battery Dance Company are one of the best things that ever happened to modern American dance.”
“In Layapriya, the group seem larger-than-life, the absence of a literal narrative suggests an abstracted mythology.”
“It is not then astonishing that the audience took leave of the dancers, their choreographer, the musicians and the singer with a standing ovation. They had all fallen under the spell of that which is the simplest, ascetic and built exclusively on the human body “enslaved” by the art of dance.”
– Izabela Skorzynska, Gazeta, Wyborcza, Poland, 2000
“The bodies of the five performers lucidly carved in space, and emphasis placed on evolving architectural patterns… A complex lighting plan by Pat Dignan contributes to both these aspects of the work. Decorative hand gestures, and an occasional step suggest borrowings from the rich storehouse of Indian tradition, yet these references are smoothly and organically absorbed into the contemporary idiom in a manner that attests not only to Hollander’s detailed observation of East Asian styles, but also to real understanding and assimilation. A sense of awe permeates this work, implying homage to a sacred presence. At the same time, the dancers make the ritual of performance seem intimately familiar. While personal relationships or real stories may have inspired Hollander’s gentle duets, which are framed by choreography that makes the group seem larger-than-life, the absence of a literal narrative suggests an abstracted mythology.”