What does it mean to be a traitor?
Across the ocean from Surjit, Colombo’s Venuri Perera ponders this question. Betrayal, non-conformity and disobedience are at the heart of her piece Traitriot (2014), created at a dance residency in New Delhi.
A fake smile plastered on her face, she requests the audience’s cooperation. All they have to do is open and close their eyes on cue, blocking out her jagged transitions from one movement to another. These cues take on added meaning in a piece responding to a political climate where reality is edited. The initial thrill of defiance, when you open your eyes just a little to catch the forbidden action, gives way to the chilling recognition of your complicity in obscuring what is jagged and ugly – what the state doesn’t want you to see.
Brutal things happen to the dancer’s body in Traitriot – you shudder each time Venuri crashes her elbows to the floor in moments of defeat. The dancer is the embodiment of victimhood, but she is never completely crushed. There is a fiery dignity in the way she continues to resist.