Urban Ballet smoothly kneaded ballet, street dance, hip-hop, break-dancing and many difficult-to-classify movements to create a remarkable new form

A short note about Urban Ballet by Compaigne Revolution described it as a four-act performance that is significantly bigger than the sum total of the dance genres it is composed of. It was right. Urban Ballet — performed at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Roa Concert Hall as part of Bonhour India, also known as Festival of France in India — showed itself as anything but a pastiche of dance genres. It kneaded ballet, street dance, hip-hop, a bit of break-dancing, and a plethora of difficult-to-classify movements into something remarkably different from any known genre. Seeping through the mixture was music that can be loosely defined as classical and contemporary classical. But what added strength to the performance was the theme: four incarnations of the body.

The show opened with a male dancer — wearing what looked like a long loose skirt and with his upper body bare — slithering and crawling and contorting his elastic frame into various forms and movements. He was joined by other dancers — men and women — in phases until the stage had eight of them and they arranged themselves into a perfectly symmetrical composition, something of a skewered hexagon, and they moved in perfect synchronicity. This set of concerted movements was defining. Precisely why it is difficult to describe each of the four acts in isolation. Each appeared to flow into the other as effortlessly as silk through fingers: no mean task considering the dancers, altogether nine of them, were treading on the bumpy terrain of multiple dance genres.

As mesmerising as the silken moves, light helped build the mystery that surrounded certain portions of the performance. For example, under dim and cleverly focussed light, a set of dancers appeared to have turned into one life with a single mind. On another occasion, they slithered and crawled together. These movements seemed engineered to let the viewer’s mind play interpreter.

Play of light

Towards the end of show, the dancers switched to what appeared to be regular dresses — long-sleeved tees, track pants and skirts — and this change seemed to impact the meaning of the performance. Even the increased light seemed to speak a story of its own. In this new atmosphere, the movements of the dancers conveyed urgency, surprise (when they broke into somersaults and airborne poses in the middle of gentle and fluid movements), an assertion of individuality (when each made movements independent of and different from those by every other dancer) and unity (when they seemed to flow once more into a common theme).

Unable to suppress their excitement at watching this spectacular performance, the audience were liberal with their applause. At the end, they gave the performers a standing ovation.

In the following weeks, Urban Ballet — created by Anthony Egea, artistic director and founder of Compaigne Revolution — goes to other Indian metros, as part of the festival.