In a spectacular setting outside the Devi temple on the foothills of Velliangiri, Alarmel Valli gives a performance that must have pleased the goddess
We sit on large floor cushions at Isha Yoga Center. There is pin drop silence as we watch thousands of oil lamps flickering on the temple walls behind the stage. We hear anklets and there she is, Alarmel Valli, flame-like in fiery orange and purple. What follows is a paean to Shakti. Valli's dance describes the goddess in all her glory — from creation to destruction, from the sensual to the sublime, from power to compassion — she is omniscient. Valli sparkles as she darts about the stage. She is a waterfall now, the full moon, the terrifying lightening, the dancing peacock… Her hands and feet describe a blooming lotus, the fluttering birds, the doe-eyed deer and the softly flowing stream.
The spell remains unbroken even when there is a brief technical glitch and the sound and lights go off. In the light of the oil lamps to the sound of the now-muted mridangam and flute, Valli's performance is even more riveting.
Valli's next performance celebrates Krishna. From a toddler who wants his mother Yashodha to bring down the tasty-looking moon for him to eat, to the handsome cowherd who has the gopikas fawning over him, from Radha's beloved to Kaaliya's vanquisher, Krishna is both accessible yet infinite, intimate yet cosmic. The performance is liberally sprinkled with verses from ancient texts, and Valli explains the meaning and significance of each one. Through dance, she beautifully captures the inflections, the moods, the emotions and the philosophy of each hoary composition.
There is one more treat in store for the audience. Valli dedicates it to Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev. It is a piece that is set to verse composed by Arundhathi Subramaniam. The poetess is present at the gathering and she reads out her poem. It is about a woman waiting for her lover. Arundhathi and Valli have collaborated on the piece, and the result is beautiful and evocative. Valli is at pains to point out that it is a contemporary poem, but her dance is wholly traditional.
Alarmel Valli's accompanying musicians were are C.K. Vasudevan on the Nattuvangam, Nandini Anand Sharma on the vocals, K.P. Nandini on the violin, Shaktivel on the Mridangam and Shruti Sagar on the flute. S.R. Murugan handled the lights.