Word and gesture
The word in literature and dance, the significance of cultural memory, the true meaning of `dialogue of cultures', these concepts dominated the dance scene in a week of varied performances.
MLANGE: Sovanabrata Sircar tried an experimental mixture of dance forms and music. PHOTO: AVINASH PASRICHA
The modernist may call it the tyranny of the word, that in dance based on a poetic text, reflecting the `dhwani' (resonance?) of that kavya becomes part of interpretative responsibility. It is here that the group work `Jayadeva Krishna' by Nrityam, presented under Habitat's HCL Concert Series, disappointed. Bharatanatyam teacher Padma Sampath Kumaran's choreography, after beginning with the proclamation of this poem as "Jayadevakavi bhanitam" on the wonder and mystery of Keshava's love play ("arbhuta Keshava Keli Rahasya"), lost the poetry in the overdone rhythmic interruptions and poses. To catch the dramatic intensity and lyricism of the Gita Govinda, transforming erotic mysticism into an aesthetic/spiritual experience, requires highly evolved dancing. Going back and forth in song order, there was disconnection between text and score and dance presentation.
"Nivrta Kunja" set to raga Charukesi expressing Radha's smouldering desire for Krishna, with her sharing with the sakhi the intimacies of the first union when Krishna unobtrusively helped her overcome her shyness, became a self-conscious Krishna/Radha posing sans the sakhi. Reverting to "Chandanacharchita", how could love play be communicated with too many rhythmic interludes with the dancers (cowherdesses) flanking Krishna placed in the centre of the `V' formation facing the audience? "Yahi Madhava" became an angry/comic wordless byplay between Radha and Krishna set to Athana. Krishna's declaration of love and total surrender - atoning by asking that Radha's feet be placed on his bowed head (Dehi Pada Pallavamudaram), became a solo soliloquy sans Radha. Jayadeva's poetry in dance is never easy, but it was somewhat surprising that a person with Padma's fine credentials was so far off centre.
Tagore and Kalidasa
To express Kalidasa's Shakuntalam through random texts of Tagore songs taken out of context, through a Manipuri/Kathakali/Kalaripayattu mélange in body language was too much of a mishmash to succeed, and if choreographer Sovanabrata Sircar's presentation at Habitat's Basement Theatre fell flat on its face, it was hardly surprising. With just one experienced lead dancer and an amateurish corps-de-ballet, such an endeavour was unwise. In the end, a mixture of Sanskrit and Manipuri with Bengali songs in the libretto with well-known songs from Tagore's Kalmriga, Shyama, Chitrangada, etc., all carrying a backlog of cultural memory, made a mockery of both Tagore and Kalidasa. From the prelude of Dushyanta on a hunt, followed by an overdrawn scene of Shakuntala and her friends dallying, to the tame finish, the dance drama lacked conviction in performance and conceptualisation.
INTERPRETATION: `Jayadeva Krishna' brought to the fore the challenges for a choreographer transforming poetry into dance
At the India International Centre, Sanchari Sarkar's precise and highly evocative rendition of the `Govardhana Lila' kavit provided an experience of the perfect marriage of movement and text. A word/rhythm narration with no points of dalliance, the kavit demands focussed abhinaya where every fleeting moment lives up to its fullest meaning. This Kathak disciple of Kolkata's veteran dancer Malabika Mitra has been well taught. Thaat and layakari in vilambit Teen tala, the variety in amad, the bedam paran, the subtlety of gat nikas and the Dhamar tala with tukras, a fine tihai with the Kitataka Dadhingina Dha ending, and parans combined rhythmic exactitude with joy in the dance and padhant - springing from complete confidence and surefootedness and understanding of tala and its intricacies. The Bindadin thumri "Dagar Chalat Dekho Shyam" describing Krishna's antics in Vrindavan met with sensitive abhinaya. Bol-padhant by Malabika Mitra the guru, and fine tabla support by Samirullah Khan completed the Kathak evening at the IIC.
A true "dialogue of cultures" as described by the Ambassador from Trinidad, the Bharatanatyam trio of Polish Joanna Ponikiewska, Trinidadian Reshma Soodeen and Japanese Sayo Oshima, all students of Jayalakshmi Eshwar during their short Indian stint under the ICCR scholarship, combined very well in their recital at the Triveni under the aegis of Abhinaya Aradhana. From the pushpanjali in Valaji to the Lalgudi tillana in Mohanakalyani, Sayo Oshima showed herself to be a natural for Bharatanatyam. Reshma dances with erect-backed dignity. Joanna's tall figure has to come to terms with greater eye/gesture movement coordination. But on the whole the dancers were a credit to their guru Jayalakshmi, whose nattuvangam with Keshavan's mridangam and Shyamala Bhaskaran's veena provided fine support. Annadorai's violin and S. Vasudevan's talented but inexperienced vocal support went flat in the Sindhubhairavi bhajan.
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