When dance became personal statement
Both Anita Ratnam and Geeta Chandran transcended tradition to present riveting performances.
Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
"Attam," the three-day festival of ``new kinetics" put up recently by the Arangham Trust at the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha was an out of the ordinary experience. It comprised the premiere of ``Seven Graces... into Aesthetic Realms of Goddess Tara," by Anita Ratnam, founder of Arangham Trust and ``So Many Journeys" by the Delhi-based dancer Geeta Chandran and her company Natya Vriksha.
Intensely felt and portrayed, Anita Ratnam's solo presentation``Seven Graces" throbbed with deeply felt emotions and yet had a tranquillity and grace that owed both to the movements and the music that accompanied the work. The artiste immersed herself in a personalised telling about the Goddess Tara, believed to have been born out of the tears of the Buddha.
The operatic creation was the result of collaboration with Hari Krishnan (choreography/direction) of the inDance company, Canada. As the dancers pointed out, this was not a linear or text-based presentation, the Tara theme is ``used as a point of reference."
Tara, the universal female deity is common to cultures across the globe from Finland to China. She is greatly revered in Buddhism where she is commonly seen in her forms of white (for compassion) and green (intellect). It was a 60-minute performance where the dancer's power of improvisation and creativity strongly came to the fore and where her range of emotions engaged the audience.
The work was divided into seven sections with seven colours each denoting different qualities all of which were linked by the haunting notes of Shubhashree Ramachandran's rendition of Sindubhairavi, the evocative sounds of Tibetan chants, the sounds of the flute and the tinkling of wind chimes.
In an abstract work, the yardstick of effectiveness is the artiste's ability to hold the audience and carry them along. This Anita succeeded in doing from the time she came on to the stage pulling at the symbolical umbilical chord.
PHOTO: K. V. Srinivasan
The production seemed to need tightening in the mid segment where the artiste appeared to be still involved in the process of finding herself. But the final portions where she becomes the embodiment of compassion merging into the goddess, depicted in a beautiful thanka painting on stage, was moving.
Anita's flame coloured costume and the top knot gave the right feel to the performance. Lighting (design: Mithran Devanesen) played a highly effective role in the performance as it did in Natya Vriksha's offering the next day.
The inner search and the novel were also on view in ``So Many Journeys" which sought to bridge Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance. The performance drew inspiration from Geeta Chandran's book ``So Many Journeys" co-authored by Rajiv Chandran. The book was released by Vyjayanthimala Bali that evening. Geeta's "Anarth" which followed the more traditional Shringara explored ``the meaning to be found even in meaninglessness." Shubha Mudgal's music - dark, sombre and haunting- created the mood for the piece. But as can be expected in a subjective work like this, there were portions that baffled the viewer.
The third item featuring five artistes of Natya Vriksha dealt with gender and stereotypes of women confined to traditional roles ultimately breaking out of these boundaries. The choreography was riveting.
Excellent choreography again filled the audience with a sense of exultation in the final piece ``The Seasons" inspired by Ritusamhara. Set to Tchaikovsky's music and finely synchronised, it had seven dancers and the main artiste capturing the beauty and the joy of the seasons.
``Attam" mystifying and enjoyable by turn saw the artistes stretch the boundaries of creativity and the contours of the imagination. But ultimately, it was the ``She" who emerged supreme, whether as compassionate Goddess or ordinary woman.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu