Tanusree Shankar's sky-centric theme was a treat to the discerning audience.
Photo: K. Gajendran
RHYTHMIC & THEMATIC Aesthetically designed costumes mirrored the varying moods of the ballet.
The sky forms the canopy for the earth; it has no particular shape, nor substance nor scale. Yet it can be visualised to mean myriad things, interpreted in countless ways and inferred in numerous modes. And Tanusree Shankar did exactly this in her thematic Akaash (Sky) a series of sky-centric life sketches that also paint a vivid picture of the cultural multiplicity of India.
There was a suggestion at the very beginning that Prithvi (earth), the habitat of man, has lost its pristine purity and can no longer relate to inhabitants, thanks to heavy industrialisation followed by technological and genetic intrusions into nature. The sky, though explored still remains a vista of `oneness'.
Crisp numbers depicting distinct phases of the sky like dawn, mid-noon, thunderous, lightning, cloudy heavens, the dusk, the romantic moonlit night and then again the sunrise, gave a rhythmic excellence to the entire series.
Aesthetically designed costumes mirrored the varying moods like the romantic night being symbolised by black dress with red yokes of the male dancers and a silvery blue attire by their counterparts who had stars as a part of their hairdo. The group of artistes swayed to romantic background music playing hide and seek with their corresponding partners reminiscent of the twinkling stars being overcome by clouds now and then. It was a lovely exposition of the night scheme in the sky.
Tanusree was able to establish a rapport with her audience through the medium of abstract dance, devoid of any particular classical mudras or gestures and footwork - yet very explicit in conveying the right idea across. The body kinetics for most part were suggestive swing of the hips with graceful short jumps and quick shifts forming clear cut patterns.
The male dancers gave brisk, flighty footwork with corresponding hand movements, which was distinctly masculine. This divergence endowed the theme with a singularity that was a joy to behold.
Tanusree, who led her troupe was at her graceful best with a flexibility which was quite stunning. A verse from Aditya Hridayam (in praise of sun god) for the Suryodaya piece struck an imposing chord with her expressions lending the right note. The reddish-orange stage lighting created an aura around the dancers. The chirping sound of birds in the background at the rise of the sun drew a realistic picture of rural ambience. The Gayatri mantra offering was
rendered through slow, measured footwork, a la Bharatanatyam style. Folk dance replaced the midnoon activity with dancers attired in Rajasthani mode to the fast beat of the percussion (dholak) and a monosyllable vocal making for the chorus line. A sprinkling of the bhangra conveyed the real native India-unity in diversity under a common roof (the Akaash)!
The spiritual element that is bound to awaken in every creature after the fragmentation of the earth, was obviously a hope of future which looked a little like wishful thinking. Consumerism and
ensuing materialism only deplete the so-called spiritual awakening in man but are not precursors to eventual realisation - at least that is what the scriptures say. Instead Tanusree could have incorporated the yearning for peace (inner and outer) - the Shanti mantras at this juncture. It would have been in tune with the theme.
The Anjali to Late Ananda Shankar (who composed the music) was indeed very touching to say the least. The racy style and the capsuled conceptualisation of Tanusree's choreography made for a memorable evening at Hotel Taj Krishna.
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