The presentation of Madhavi Mudgal and her group was visually stimulating but lacked the grace of the dance form.
For someone who looked forward to an evening of Odissi, ‘Odissi Choreographies' by Madhavi Mudgal and the disciples of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi, disappointed. The presentations concentrated on the visual imagery that was undoubtedly a kaleidoscope of patterns and colours, but what got sacrificed was the sensuality and grace of Odissi.
The first piece, ‘Ganga Stavan,' was the pick of the evening in terms of the layering in the visuals and in the musical notes. As the sacred waters of the Ganga are invoked, the dancers symbolised the river with meditative intent as an ever shifting, ever flowing body. The group in unison provided the foil for Madhavi's symbolism and balanced the movement in front with silent friezes at the back. They proved counterpoints even in the nritta, the group balancing out the solo and vice versa.
‘Dvidha' in raag Bhairavi, Ektali, was also visually exciting with Madhavi and Arushi Mudgal presenting a duet of ‘Bhairavi, Bhairava Stree', a dance of Siva and Parvati with mirroring movements making straight lines, squares and semi-circles. It was like a pallavi with nritta and raga that started slower and developed to its full glory. Aided by beautiful lighting (Gautam Bhattacharya) and soulful music, the imagery was surreal.
While these pieces highlighted the sophistication possible in group choreography, the process seemed to take away the soul, the lasya and the languid beauty, of the dance style. The abhinaya aspect explored in dance drama style ‘Kumarasambhavam' excerpt was well delineated by the group. So was the ‘Vadya Vaividhya' ensemble piece that explored the different gatis along with the percussion instruments of Orissa. It boasted of a high standard of synchronisation and grammar.
The lighting at the beginning of each gati section was trained only on the dancers' feet in an inspiring move to highlight the rhythm.
The musical score was composed by Madhup Mudgal and the responsive music group consisted of Gandhi Mallik (pakhavaj), Jitendra Swain (percussion), Purna Chandra Majhi and Manikuntala Bhowmik (vocal), Srinibas Satapathy (flute) and Yar Mohd (sitar). The cymbals were wielded by dancer-choreographer Madhavi.
‘Odissi Choreographies' did receive a standing ovation in the end, and one would like to applaud the sophistication in ideas and performance and commend the dancers' efforts, but one would have loved to see Madhavi at her sensuous best too.