JAY Emmanuel has a harrowing story to tell.
Worthy of a Hollywood script, it tells of a childhood of brutality and isolation in the Indian city, Indore.
In sharing his narrative through dance, Emmanuel is finding closure and eliciting hope.
“At four, my father passed away and in India it is taboo when the male dies – the woman is blamed, like she has brought bad luck to the family – so we were thrown out by our family and were on the streets,” the St George’s Dance and Theatre artistic director said.
“An older woman took us in but in exchange for shelter my mother had to be her slave and when my mum left (Emmanuel was seven) to qualify herself so she could feed me and my younger brother, I had to take on the role of carer for this woman.
“This show (dance performance MAA) talks about the two years my mum was away. It was a very difficult decision for her to leave us, but it was important because if she hadn’t gone and done what she did, we would still be in that place.”
Emmanuel suffered beatings and mental abuse from the woman, who seldom let him leave the house.
“She couldn’t walk properly so I had to carry out all her work – it was slavery – while looking after my little brother,” he said.
“I was a seven-year-old who became mother to a four-year-old while taking care of a demanding 75-year-old lady.
“Also, I was a victim of abuse from people outside the house and did not want my brother to experience that: I was ferocious in protecting him and I would not let anyone touch him.”
At school, Emmanuel learnt painting and Kathakali (Indian dance) and used his art as an escape.
“This became a way for me to get away from it all and be nourished and taken care of by something bigger than me,” he said.
“In this isolation, my imagination helped me to expand and not have this prison around me.”
Emmanuel’s mother returned and took her sons away.
She remarried, and the family moved to Perthand Emmanuel later attended WAAPA and Jacques Lecoq School in Paris.
“I’ve definitely moved on from that experience and almost see it as great fertiliser: a fertiliser in terms of the range of emotions I can work with having gone through those experiences,” the performer said.
“I can tap into those emotions and as director of theatre I can go into those nooks and corners because I’ve seen them.”
When: October 14-28
Where: Lower Burt Memorial Hall, St George’s Cathedral