Dance “Disha”, choreographed by Leela Samson, threw a new light on group aesthetics, both in nritta and abhinaya.
“Disha” the group presentation by Spanda Dance Company, presented at Chennai’s Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, under the aegis of Kartik Fine Arts, was, for minds willing to think out of the box of conditioned grooves, a refreshing delight. Leela Samson’s choreography, while not for a moment straying from rootedness in the Bharatanatyam technique, explored its micro elements, for a unique interpretation of group aesthetics. From the initial invocatory offer to Shiva based on verses from Kalidasa’s “Malavikagnimitra”, to the finale, the minimalistic but intensely involved approach found each dancer, while acutely aware of the repetitive movement and the kind of emotive vibrations it drew from the body, simultaneously conscious of space and the group togetherness which enriched movement with a resonance and energy all its own. The pancha jatis were contained in movement without a strong visible rhythmic articulation.
One got the feeling that each movement rendered in micro perfection became a statement of aesthetics in itself. Take the circular geometry which visualised so many dimensions — the legs drawing a circle as with a compass, the hands circling in the air, the bodies circling on their own axis in movement while becoming part of a larger circular formation, in the centre the group with three dancers, their raised right hands twined together moving in a circle — all in fine synchronisation. In “Kalyani”, sections of the Kalyani jatiswaram korvais were woven into a group rendition as a part of the composition which then flowed on to other areas, musically and through movement.
A movement with fully stretched leg, a leap, dancers forming a slanting line and quickly changing to other formations creating architectural visual aesthetics — all contained that unexpected wonderment and surprise in every move. And equally innovative was the still very fresh sounding music of O.S. Arun composed years ago in his youth, (before experience and the layers of influence it brings with it could dilute the unsoiled originality of creativity) comprising the Taanam Nom Dat Tom syllables through a string of ragas like Bahudari, Kalyani, Vasanta, Ranjani, giving to each raga a treatment which was different, with unusual occasional Hindustani inflexions. So too was Madhup Mudgal’s music sung by the Gandharva choir in Jog for “Charishnu”, the item built round the idea of journeying — in different directions and ways.
The jaunty forward stride and typical shoulder movements and the innumerable formations, dancers profiled moving in different directions, the patterns forming and dissolving all the time with the visible enjoyment of the dancers, made for a great sense of joy. The interpretative item “Etuvanti vadu” created a kind of a collage of a mood with dancers positioned in a cluster at varying levels miming in innocent mugdha wonder about the beauteous Krishna with his curls and his skill in love play — the singing by Srikanth set to Neelambari in which raga Leela heard this Kshetrayya lyric sung in her young days. Here was a new way of treating abhinaya for a group, with lighting also helping introduce shades of darkness and light — interesting, with mixed responses from conditioned minds.
Leela dancing as one of the group merged with them, taking the stage in a subtle, evocative solo interpretation of the one-line thumri on tape, sung by Vasundhara Komkali in Khamas, “Raat Piyabin neend nahi aayi” portraying the nayika bemoaning the sleepless night without her beloved. The group’s involved mind/body synchronisation deserved credit.