Visiting performers brought varied styles and standards to the Capital’s summer arts scene

It was dance theatre, by a cross cultural Contemporary dance cast, with highly involved female performers hailing from different countries, conceived by Israeli choreographer Shaket Dagan. Mounted in cooperation with the Israeli embassy under the Second Home India Project, “Kindling” presented at the India Habitat Centre’s Stein Auditorium as a special HCL evening, on the age-old theme of woman, lived up to its title.

From the starting tanpura strains with the chanting of ‘Om’ and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, visualising dancers — knees folded, bent fully forward – slowly rising, each in her own way, to the final point of being “together even when alone”, this was a work with not a dull moment. Dramatic pauses, changing tenor of movements, mood and music, cryptic dialogues, sequences alternating between the seemingly frivolous and the sombre, this well-knit effort had one scene dovetailing into the other in a seamless fashion, even as a collage of images associated with women of different cultures flowed.

Not aimed at providing answers to the riddle of woman, the production was woven round multi-fold images of women. One saw the single independent woman “strong as stone nothing will move” ready to plunge into the rivers of life, unafraid of the consequences. There was the seductive woman, the woman who saw freedom in being able to “breathe the air and smell the water”, women doing chores and the typical Indian village belles walking with pot of water on the head or having innocent fun with companions, splashing water playfully over one another and willing to share with others the little one has.

Moving with the herd, mechanistically caught in the mind-numbing routine of daily living, or as one seeing her own image in her dying mother, the most courageous of beings now afraid and unwilling to accept death, ultimately woman is alone, looking for her inner self. Is she connected with the society she lives in? Is she vulnerable? Is her future to be invariably coloured by the past — with ‘Her Map’ always the same even while trying to be different?

The bits of music, live and recorded, came and went, rising and flowing with action and the mood. The ironical humour of women standing motionless with deadpan expressions while the background song voices words of passionate love “You made my heart sink…..” is not lost. “Kindling”, whether as just a crying child looking for her mother or that ideal, “a mere dream just round the corner”, held the audience fully involved.

Much improved

Kiran Rajagopal performing at the India International Centre, on the second evening of a two-day music/dance festival, came out with flying colours in the varnam in Nalinakanti raga, “Inta Chalamelane”. Made famous a few years ago through the renditions of Kiran’s guru A. Lakshman, who got the varnam from Kalanidhi Narayanan, this composition is unique in many ways. Composed by Sri Seshadri with wife Meera Seshadri providing the score, the varnam is the expression of a messenger of love, a male friend of Shiva (doota) addressing the dootika, the sakhi of Parvati, while pleading the case of the Lord.

“Why this fuss and indifference?” he asks. “Has she forgotten the days when as a peahen, unable to contain the pangs of separation from her Lord the Mayurapurivasa (when Shiva manifested himself as a peacock), she roamed the countryside passionately looking for him?” The charanam part of the varnam dilating on the greatness of the Lord saw episodic passages from the Shiva Purana. Shiva with the tip of his big toe keeping the Himalayan mountain pressed down on the tired back of the arrogant Ravana daring to lift and play ball with the abode of the god, and a sequence visualising Shiva as Kirata, the hunter testing Arjuna before bestowing on him the boon of the Pashupata Astra were all neatly presented.

Kiran’s nritta movements are impeccable in line. Interpretative dance too has conviction, and as the dancer matures, more nuanced expression is bound to become a feature of his dance. Along with the existing rhythmic grasp, a more assertive emphasis of certain phrases and flourishes like the arudi, would further enhance the quality of the dance.

Kiran had a well rehearsed, committed set of musicians with A. Venkatesh’s evocative singing, S. Vasudevan’s clarity and punch in nattuvangam and V. Shyamsundar’s fine mridangam accompaniment. Not to be left behind was young Raghavendra Prasad the violinist, a student of VSK Chakrapani who shows undoubted promise. All things going well, he should be an asset to the Capital.

The Manipuri group of Paushali Sircar, following such an involved Bharatanatyam rendition, proved to be an anti-climax with very mediocre dancers. Dasavataram was a non-event and Prabandha Nritta, barring the fact of two female dancers in male and female garb, could not bring out the lasya/tandav contrast in Manipuri. The light-footed and graceful jumps and knee lifts of the male dancer, different from the lasya movements where the dancer gliding on the floor barely lifts her knee above a few inches, needed to be brought out more strongly. Abhir Khel from Raas Lila saw the stiff skirts hurriedly donned, not fully pulled out at the back, and in one case the previous costume of the dancer, a good six inches longer then the skirt, dangled below the skirt, looking very odd. Altogether a disappointment! Even without facial expression, Manipuri in body movement needs the kind of internalised strength which was totally missing. Without live music, the performance suffered further.