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Chess Olympiad witnesses dance tribute in Tamil Nadu

The 3.48-minute Check Mate dance video was created by Pudukottai District Collector Kavitha Ramu, who is also a trained dancer.


The Tamil Nadu Government has outdone itself after highlighting the state’s Dravidian heritage in the impressive opening ceremony for the 44th Chess Olympiad on Thursday. Chief Minister M K Stalin has posted an online video of a ‘Chess Dance’ in which the black queen triumphs over the white in a message that is as much political as it is about the game.

The 3.48-minute Check Mate dance video was created by Pudukottai District Collector Kavitha Ramu, who is also a trained dancer.

Ramu, who designed and choreographed the dance, told The Sunday Express that the project was about colour, gender, and power, as well as paying homage to the game that has made Chennai its home in the country.

With the DMK government rolling out the red carpet for the event, Ramu said: “I intended it to be a Chess Dance, with classical, folk and martial arts elements, to make it vibrant and colourful.”

While she held the auditions in Pudukottai, the dance was shot in Chennai. “As I couldn’t join the dancers in Chennai owing to work commitments, the director, Vijey Raj, sent me video clips and photographs from the shoot.”

She praises his meticulous dedication to the project and says she wanted to ensure that the dance strictly adhered to chess moves.

One of the most important aspects was getting the music right, which was composed by Narendra Kumar Lakshmipathy.

According to Ramu, the project was conceived around the triumph of the black queen despite the white having the first-mover advantage, given the concept.

Priyadarshini Rajendran, a Bharatanatyam dancer from Pudukottai who works in the IT industry in Bengaluru and enjoys chess, plays the role of the black queen in the dance. Rajendran, who always prefers black, laughs and says, “Some of us feel black has a better chance, maybe a counter-intuitive feeling.”

The finesse of the final video is enhanced by the fact that the team only had two days of rehearsals before shooting for 24 hours, from 6 a.m. one day to 6 a.m. the next.

The dance was originally conceived as a music video, according to Raj, who has worked as a co-director in some Tamil films. “However, the plan was changed to tell a visual story about the game, with more specific characters and the colour black as a metaphor.” It was a huge challenge to summarise the entire story in a few minutes. Many of the performers had never been in front of a camera before.”

According to Raju, Ramu’s creative freedom was instrumental in projecting a “compelling narrative.”

Rajendran claims they were fully prepared by the time they arrived for the shoot. “We were all briefed on the entire story, from beginning to end.” I had the most movement as the black queen. I expected to use those steps as a Bharatanatyam dancer, but that was not the intention. It was choreographed so that the emphasis was on the dynamics of collective body movement.”

The white king was Srinivas, a classical dancer. Manikantan, a freestyle dancer, was the black king. Poikkaal kudhirai artistes Muthukuran, Deepan, Baskar and Cheran, Manigandan, Karthigeyan, Manojkumar, Prathapan, Karthick, Lakshmanan, Divakar, Priyadarshan, Nishanthi, Oorvasi, Rithika Jayalakshmi, Narmatha, Krupavathi, Durga and Soundarya, were also part of the video.