I have always been fascinated by the stories in the Bible (coincidently, I was born on 25th December). My father too was a fan of Biblical stories and encouraged me to read the Bible, especially the old testament. I was drawn towards the dynamic characters there of like Herod, John the Baptist, Salome and Judas. Judas in particular, drew my attention for his mixed qualities. A man trapped in his own destiny.
It was my father who first showed me the potentials of the role of Judas as a solo dance. He had already done a painting of Judas Iscariot, featuring him with the money bag and a guilty upwards glance. I started meditating on the painting and researching on this man who betrayed his own master.
- Somabandhu's painting of Judas -
I gathered enough visual images for the chorography. But, the challenge was to find an appropriate music. The solution was Sibelius – the second movement of the second symphony. All the smoothes and roughs, softs and louds, ups and downs that the dance demanded were in it. Above all, it sounded very oriental Vannam like that I selected a whole section of the second movement which lasted for seven minutes and encapsulated my whole dance in it.
Then came the stage of experimenting with movements. I started improvising on the music, all kinds of movements – jumps, leaps, turns and pirouette etc. I wanted to deviate from the traditional movements and make the dance look like one of those modern western pieces. Grahamic in style, balletic in appearance yet Knadyan in spirit. (And I think I achieved it). As the chorographer of the Sama Ballet then, I was provided a fantastic group of young dancers to work with. So, I selected five of the best dancers Ajith, Priyanga, Weerakoon, H. A. and Chandana all oozing with youth and energy to back me and counter balance the power of Sibelius' music towards a climaxed and frenzied dance of death.
The dance begins in a silhouette. Judas sitting on the rear riser and others standing like pillars. Through a kaleidoscopic unfolding of a range of moods and movements the piece reaches a highly dramatic and as Judas stabs himself (in the original Bible story, he hangs himself) to a frenzied death.
Judas became a well acclaimed piece with both the critique and the public. The black clad dancers, somewhat Stravinskyan music and the dramatic chorography has made it into becoming a good expressionistic dance.
After the first performance at Elphinstone Theater in February 1989, Guru Chithrasena said “I like your Judas. You have brought together dance and drama very well".