Anand: Joy in Motion

July 31, 2009 at 2:56 am | Posted in Event Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Last night I went to the opening night of the Mudra Dance Company‘s “Anand: Joy in Motion”. This was my first foray into Bharata-Natyam dance. So it was with some trepidation that I went Vivek Kinra’s 20th Bharata-Natyam production in New Zealand.

I got there nice and early to – quite by accident – so I had time to read the well put together glossy programme. I was very impressed by the biographies of the senior dancers – all held tertiary qualifications, or were studying for tertiary qualifications, one was studying for a PhD in physics, while another held a PhD in Marine Ecology.

July 30, 2009 by Show_Hanger

The Victoria University Memorial Theatre was transformed through lighting, colour and a little bit of incense.

There were five works:

  • Natesha Kautuvam
  • Ardhanareeshwara
  • “Enneenna vilaiyadalamma …”
  • Darpana: Reflections
  • Shiva Geeta Mala

Natesha Kautuvam was danced by the more advanced students in Vivek Kinra’s Dance Academy. Whereas the other pieces featured dancers who had graduated from the Academy and Kinra. The contrast was interesting, to my uneducated eye, the senior pupils seems very good, but the graduates clearly were much more assured and several levels ahead.

I found the Ardhanareeshwara piece – a solo by Kinra – fascinating. The dance is around the methological figure of Ardhanareeshwara who is half man and half woman – Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. Kinra dances as a man with the right side of his body and as a woman with the left side of his body. The aim, I infer from the programme, is to arrive at a balance. This piece was introduced with an English explanation, with Kinra showing off the basic dance metaphors that would be used in the piece itself.

Even though the last piece Shiva Geeti Mala took up the entire second half, I get the feeling that it was a significantly truncated from the original 17 chapter poem.

The story appeared fairly simple: Lord Shiva is seen by his consort dancing with the celestial nymphs and becomes angry with him, and takes herself away, but they are eventually reconcilled. I suspect in the longer versions of the work (and poem), Nandi (danced by Anjali Pande) – the bull – plays a much more significant role than I saw last night. Still, Nandi was clearly in thrall to Lord Shiva; perhaps he is there to show Lord Shiva’s supremacy over all. Which of course, counter-points Parvati’s several rejections of him. Perhaps to show that everyone – even the supreme one – can be held to account.

The Apsara – the celestial nymphs – are danced with grace, and so of course Lord Shiva wants to dance with them. Parvati understandably is hurt by this, especially when she has made a long journey to be with him. There is some very clever use of lighting and back projection to show Lord Shiva’s court at the top of the Himalayas, and Parvati’s journey through the jungle.

Kinra dances the part of Lord Shiva, and for all that he is a god; he is clearly upset by Parvati’s rejection. But, perhaps from a western perspective, it is Shrividya Ravi, as Parvati, who almost steals the show. Her portrayal of the slighted, pinning, yearning Parvati is much more accessible than the magnificant god Shiva.

Sakhi (danced by Ashleen Deepika Singh) is Paravti’s friend who acts as peacemaker between her and the Lord Shiva.

The finale gave another insight into this dance form. The pas de deux with Lord Shiva and Parvati differ very much from the western forms that I am more familiar with: the tendency is to day alongside each other – almost never facing each other, and seldom touching each other. Female Bharata-Natyam dancers don’t need to be supported! Bharata-Natyam dance has elements of grace, speed, power and rhythm; the dancers often slap their feet in time to the music, and at other times leap and land silently; there is also use of the shoulders, arms and hands.

I realised about a third of the way through Shiva Geeti Mala, that the sound track included vocals – so that had I understood Hindi (?) even more of the story would have available to me. I think the production achieves a good balance between the use of English and Bharata-Natyam’s ethnic roots.

I enjoyed my first evening of Bharata-Natyam dance. I think that there is something for everyone – including food. At the interval, the food was Indian.

I was disappointed by two things: the light from the control room was too bright and illuminated the back third of the theatre; the first night audience was relatively lsmall. The latter disappointment is for the Company, who clearly worked very hard to produce a quality production.

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