Ātete - Resistance

New Athenaeum Theatre, 24 The Octagon, Dunedin

30/11/2019 - 01/12/2019

Production Details

Ātete – Resistance

Swaroopa presents Ātete – Resistance on Nov 30th and Dec 1st 6-7pm at The New Athenaeum Theatre . Ātete is a solo dance theatre by Swaroopa Prameela Unni introducing you to three South Asian women – Poomathai Ponnamma, Dr Rajani Thiranagama and Nayika who stood up against violence. Swaroopa will weave through stories of caste and feudal violence, violence during war and domestic violence in New Zealand.  

Through these three segments she will connect the dots with common themes like patriarchy and how women’s bodies are used as a site for revenge in this world. Ātete will be choreographed in Mohiniyattam, a South Indian Dance form, known for its portrayal of ideal womanhood and Swaroopa will juxtapose this with how this very concept has shaped the pattern of violence on women’s bodies. Ātete will use spoken words, movements, music and digital media to narrate their stories. Additional Music composed by Jyolsna Panicker and Sandeep Pillai from India. Tickets $15/$10 will also be available at the venue. The event is for audience 16+ Trigger Warning: Content discusses gender violence.

About Swaroopa Prameela Unni

Swaroopa Prameela Unni is an established performing artist and an independent researcher based in Dunedin. She started training in Bharatanayam from the age of four, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi from the age of 11 and Kathak during her adult life. She was a principal dancer for Nrithyalaya School of Indian Classical Dance and Abhinava Dance Company in India. Swaroopa established Natyaloka School of Indian Dance on Oct 6, 2011 where she teaches Bharatanatyam, a South Indian Dance form, to students from age of 4.5 years and above. Natyaloka is the only Indian dance school in the Otago region. Swaroopa has received great reviews for her solo theatre productions Aananda and Sringaram which was performed at the Body Festival, Dunedin Fringe Festival, New Zealand Fringe Festival and Tempo Dance Festival. She was also chosen as one of 125 extraordinary women in Dunedin – an exhibition by Otago Museum, to celebrate 125 years of suffrage movement funded by Ministry for Women. Swaroopa has published a paper ‘Bharatanatyam in New Zealand: A story of dance, diaspora and cultural change’ in Dance Research Aotearoa and she also writes a blog on dance at www.natyaloka.org

Indian classical dance , Dance ,

1 hour

Poignant and timely essay on gendered violence

Review by Hannah Molloy 03rd Dec 2019

Ātete – Resistance, a solo dance theatre work by Swaroopa Unni, is remarkable in its simplicity, a stark essay on the ongoing and far too prevalent issues of gendered and domestic violence, couched in patriarchy, chauvinism, and misogyny.

Framed around the stories of three South Asian women who experienced gendered violence, the message is clear: women are hurt and women die, whether they are vocal and fierce, compliant and submissive, or simply because they are there an caught the eye of a man with a sense of entitlement.

With the court cases of the murderers of Grace Millane and Amber-Rose Rush reminding us daily that women are still not entitled to bodily autonomy, sexual freedom or dignity, Ātete is an especially poignant and timely piece of work.

Swaroopa is clear in her programme notes that violence is not her own lived experience and her humble and very graceful acknowledgement of her struggle to find the right way of offering her perspective on this global crisis paints a picture of the care we need to take of each other to navigate to a better place. For all of us, women, so we’re safe, and men, so you’re better. (Don’t even dream of #NotAllMen-ing me right now.)

The movement vocabulary is specific and Swaroopa generously translates it for us, with spoken word overlaying the gestures and shapes so we understand her clearly. She moves like a valley river does, placid and serene on the surface, but with strength and unswerving, powerful currents underneath. As her narrative reaches crescendo, her whole persona is drenched in the grief and terror that goes with violence, even when it’s anticipated.

The audience is moved, with plenty of tear-soaked cheeks. Swaroopa waits outside as we leave, accepting hugs and handshakes and looking moved herself. The feeling of creating work that has the potential to help shift the social narrative must be both daunting and empowering and I think this is one such work.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council