Shakti and Siva blended into a wholesome treat at Malavika Sarukkai's charged performance. Leela Venkataraman
Performance spaces with an audience sometimes throb with palpable positive energy igniting the dancer. So it was at the Narada Gana Sabha with a charged Malavika Sarukkai performing. Her concept of Shakti/Shaktiman comprising a blended package of re-visited and new work reflected the dynamic and complementary tensions of Devi as the vitalising life force and Siva as the primal energy in the iconic Lingam form.
Right from the curtain raiser of Mahesha Tandavam from Balarama Bharatam (set in Hamsadhwani by Seetarama Sarma), visualising Nataraja's body taking on the force of his falling anklets loosened while he danced, thereby saving the Earth the shock and causing the first dance syllables ‘Tat Dhit Tom Nom' to emerge, one sensed a uniquely powered performance. In a contrasting energy enveloped in beauty, sublime grace, quietude and benediction was the portrayal of the Devi as visualised in the Neelambari lyric, ‘Sringaralahari.'
‘Eka Lakshyaha Margam' had a pan-Indian flavour in a mix of musical genres, the choreography comprising segments of older productions imaging scenes on the Ganga and in Varanasi, with fresh images. The dance choreography covering floor space tracing the geometry of the square and circles represented the square temple space with circling paths of pilgrims of all denominations from all corners of India seeking to reach the still centre of the Bindu -- the Lingam of Vishwanath.
On the banks of the swirling waters of the Ganga, Siva's iconic representation draws hordes of seekers taking different paths with the unified aim of reaching the one final destination. Ragas with snatches of sahitya for the interpretative parts interspersed with nritta interludes all converging on the still presence of Vishwanath at the centre, which became the recurring motif, made for a plethora of tones, integrating at one point. Murali Parthasarathy sang with feeling. One aspect of Malavika's dance is her deep respect for silences amidst high energy – something that a lot of dance today seems to have lost sight of.
The tandav manifestation to destroy Evil , was Devi as Mahishasuramardini showing the “conflict of energies, inner and outer, positive and negative.” Here one could see that the dancer's choreography had deliberately stretched and gone beyond the Bharatanatyam discipline, which she adheres to very strictly. Percussionist M.S. Sukhi's rhythmic interludes depicting the battle scene between Devi and Mahishasura, Mahisha finally destroyed in a frozen attitude, inspired by the sculpture in Mamallapuram, the evocative instrumental/ rhythmic “Aigiri Nandini” hymn without the sahitya and Devi Mahatmyam verses as homage at the end, added to an intense performance.
The dancer as the empowered Devi smoothly transformed into the ardent devotee, to rapturous applause. The tabla interventions of Sai Shravanam with Sukhi on the mridangam and Neela Sukhanya with the cymbals were part of an enthused musical effort.