Ramli Ibrahim, Odissi dancer from Malaysia, came up with arresting presentations.
Whenever Malayasian Odissi dancer-choreographer Ramli Ibrahim performs in the land of Odissi, he stirs unbound excitement. Here, purists protest his unconventional productions. Liberals adore his works as innovative. But both make a beeline to watch his arresting presentations. And his recent concerts in Orissa were no exception.
In the last leg of its India tour, Ramli's Sutra Dance Theatre troupe performed at the special silver jubilee edition of the Konark dance and music festival followed by another in the capital city of Bhubaneswar that was sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. On both occasions the Sutra troupe presented — exactly as elsewhere in India — Spellbound, a bouquet of five compositions choreographed by Bhubaneswar-based Odissi exponent Durga Charan Ranbir and rearranged into group compositions by Ramli. The nine-member troupe included their master Ramli, now in his late 50's and Kalakshetra-trained male dancer Guna besides seven slim and shinning young girls bubbling with stamina to storm the stage.
Accompanied by live orchestra that included the best of musicians like percussionist Dhaneswar Swain, vocalist Sukanta Kundu and flautist Abhiram Nanda with Guru Ranbir conducting the show with manjira (cymbals) and pronouncing the bols so typical of the Debaprasad Das style of Odissi, the 100-minute concert commenced with the traditional mangalacharan, an invocation to Lord Jagannath, the presiding deity of the Puri temple that was the cradle of Odissi dance and Saraswati, the goddess of arts and knowledge. It was followed by pallavi, a pure dance number without use of any lyrics set to raga Mukhari. Here, in a departure from the convention, choreographer Ramli projected his male dancer Guna as personification of the raga depicting male divinity amidst the female dancers.
Astasambhu, the next number delineating the eight forms of Lord Shiva as a god of paradoxes, was arresting but the following expressional dance piece — kadamba bane bansi bajilare — demanded better grip over bhava by the budding dancers to depict the mood of Radha, Krishna and her friends. However, Aditya Archana — a prayer for the Sun God as the source of life on earth — was a fitting finale to the concert with stunning imagery of the chariot of seven horses duly complemented with soul-stirring music.
What made Ramli's presentations a class of its own winning ovations was his amazing style of presentation with a high degree of professionalism. From choosing the dancers to crafting of the costumes and optimum use of the stage-space and pace with the finest sense of geometry to an articulate publicity, he had the best. And without his wonderful light designer and technical director Sivarajah Natarajan, a painter and photographer, Sutra's presentations would never have been peerless and memorable.