Making sure the twain do meet
It has been an action-packed few days for those who love music and movement
BRIDGING THE DIVIDE Geeta Chandran performing `Syncretism' PHOTO: PTI
In keeping with its aim of building bridges and facilitating creative dialogue between Indian and foreign cultures, the ICCR in association with the United Nations Information Centre heralded sixty years of India and United Nations through a five-day festival featuring interactive manifestations of varied performing art disciplines.
Conceived by Bharatanatyam exponent Geeta Chandran, `Syncretism', also featuring her troupe from Natya Vriksha Dance Company, provided a rousing curtain raiser. Appropriately nostalgic, Geeta's solo salutation exhorting world harmony, was structured on M.S. Subbalakshmi's matchless voice on tape singing `Maitreem Jagatam', created by late Paramacharya of Kanchi Mutt with
music by Vasant Desai, composed for the historical United Nations concert on October 23, 1966. Geeta's abstract creation, Anj (meaning 5 in Tamil) in the true cross-cultural spirit was done to the exquisitely warm, sensuous notes on the cello by guest artist Saskia-Rao-de-Haas (whose combined
western/Hindustani classical expertise selected Keervani raga -D Minor in
Western classical as an East/West bridge). Representing the five spaces impacting a man's life - viz. individual, family, neighbourhood, country and the foreign world (symbolized in five concentric circles in the UN Logo), the geometry of covering floor space in five expanding circles to varied Siva Kumar-designed rhythm patterns, action confined to light expert Kulashresta's spot-lighted circle, was imaginative. Well rehearsed `Awakening' rendered to a montage of sounds from other cultures ending with a tillana, in the sahitya-less group abhinaya interaction suggested justice,
equality and freedom of expression. Nothing could beat the slick group finale of "Seasons" choreographed to assembled segments of Tchaikovsky's music, danced with flawless symmetry and spacing.
In the usual mould
Kathak dancer Shovana Narayan's performance, exhilarating in the solo segments, was in the usual Kathak mould with cross-cultural interaction playing a minimal role.
Except for the short Yoga like salutation rendered to Buddhist chanting, no real dance dialogue between different cultural streams took place. One understands that dancing to the Buddhist chant is a great task. But Ashoka disenchanted by the Kalinga battle (shown as a blended Chhau/Kathak sequence) just joining the Buddhist Sangha represented by five monks walking as the chant played on, or Amrapali having drunk sufficiently at the fountain of youth and desire, in disillusion converting to Buddhism, offered no dance intercourse between cultures.
EXHILARATING SOLOS Shovana Narayan performing at the United Nations' 60th anniversary festival PHOTO: ASHWANI CHOPRA
Amidst the rash of programmes in Delhi, this critic could attend only the concluding evening's programme of Kathak Kendra's three-day Kathak Utsav 2005. Trained under Bharati Gupta, Jai Kishan Maharaj and Rani Khanam in that order, Namrata Pamnani with her bright presence, straight backed stance and supple-bodied movements showed promise despite less than split second
accuracy in the ladi. "More tootgayi absari" the abhinaya was not of the same level.
Though he has all the layakari even in the drut laya, Sourav Roy, a disciple of Malabika Mitra needs an inner-centered steadiness, which can give his dance a less restless tone, without lips moving all the time - a mannerism he needs to get over.
Sharmistha Mukherjee who faithfully and neatly rendered a fine choice of her late Guru Durga Lal's compositions (the ta thai tai thaat variations, the tihai of five layas, the ginti 5,7,9 tihai were memorable) needs to work on her tatkar virtuosity and also ladi and upaj. "Dashte tanhai Jane Jahan Lahazan Hai" the abhinaya piece, showed a feel for expressional dance, which has yet to mature.
The toast of the evening (perhaps the entire festival) was Malti Shyam whose smouldering solo brilliance had the audience in transports of joy and applause. It was a dancer suddenly freed from intangible inner shackles. Always a polished dancer, Malti has never before shown such inspirational fire. Accompanied by Jha's fine singing, the Dhrupad invocation to Shiva had
the fire and meditative silence of Siva echoed in a razor sharp 12 matra rhythm. Each freeze as if springing from some internal creative spring, had nothing stereotypical about it. The grace and distribution of weight in thaat and every bandish including the Dhigi Dhigi Thai Ta Thai Ta Thai done countless times, had individualistic spark. And, what detailing in every aspect of the abhinaya for "Piya Rangasri Gulabi Chunariya"! Another chapter would seem to have opened in Malti's career!
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