The New Indian Express, 21. September 2003

The Tragedy of Rama
German dancer Joachim Schloemer says he wants to present the Ramayana in his own idiom

When I tell him that I have always considered the Ramayana to be "the tragedy of Rama", Joachim Schloemer says it would make a great title for his production. the contemporary choreographer from Germany is in the country to work on the Ramayana. With new interpretations of the epic as his reference point, he has just finished five-day workshops in both Chennai and Bangalore and hopes to create his own vocabulary for this exposition.
Schloemer studied dance and choreography at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen. He was invited as a dancer-performer by the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, and later founded his own company, JOSCH. Since the end of the 90s Schloemer has been directing and creating opera and theatre, trying to build a seamless bridge between the two art forms.
Says Schloemer, "I have been interested in India and what it has to offer to a person like me for a long time. The Indians I have met during my visits to Eastern countries have been very friendly and open. I have taken Ayurvedic treatment and have acquired a serious knowledge of Ayurvedic medicines. I have learnt yoga in depth; now I teach Yoga. All these indirect contacts with Indian medicine, meditation and culture whetted my appetite to visit India."
And he is not disappointed. "India is so chaotic, funny, wild and vital. I appreciate the energy which is generated in this country. I am thoroughly enjoying my interactions with dancers of India."
Explaining his interest in the Ramayana, Schloemer says he has read a great deal about the epic, including Valmiki's Ramayana in translation. "Unlike the Mahabharata, the characters of which are closer to Central European and mythical Greek characters, the characters of the Ramayana do not undergo transformations with the changes that take place in the outside world. They stay in their own truthfulness, unaffected by the changes in the narrative."
According to the choreographer, the objective of this experiment is to offer a personal not a European point of view of the Ramayana. "This view will be independent of what I am and where I come from. I would like to personalise the Ramayana", he says.
Having familiarised himself with the secondary literature on the Ramayana, Schloemer views the epic through the questions that women raise against Rama and his patriarchal treatment of Sita. "Women such as Urmila (Lakshmana's wife), Kausalya (Rama's mother), and Ahalya (whom Rama redeemed from the stone that she had been reduced to by the curse of her husband). I am not proposing to offer any solutions. I am only trying to view it from a psychologically subtle stance. I would like especially to examine how insult and chastity works."
As part of his study, Schloemer acquaints himself with Indian dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Koodiyattam, not to borrow movement and gestures, but to soak in the energies and the truthfulness of those forms. And while he is yet to get started on the funding for his production, he says he would be interested in looking info any material which would help him present Ramayana in a new way.

Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan