DANCE Essence of life brought philosophy into dance in a confluence of five styles

The thematic presentation, a group choreography confluence of five classical dance forms, has more to it than meets the eye. ‘Essence of Life’, true to its title, presented an extract of Indian philosophical thought. The intangible concepts were interpreted and got translated on stage through an aesthetic, artistic interpretation, making for a wholesome visual treat. The experimental presentation pulled off well with certain strong points like the stream of GenNext dancers, excellent background score and expressive lighting.

The three rounds of dance were interspersed by video clippings of Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s life and philosophy which was educative especially to a generation that was not heard of the great thinker. It opened like a book with chapter one dealing with the much advocated meditation and five aspects of dealing with it. The introductory to meditation, taken up in the Bharatanatyam approach by Smitha Madhav was more of a statement. Through mime and moves, Smitha arrived at the right definition — a state of silence. Her abhinaya eschewing regular practices of mantras and spiritual exercises was depicted with clarity through hasthabhinaya and facial expressions.

It was a delight to watch a Japanese girl Masako Ono speak out the myths of meditation through her yogic stances, while Prateeksha zoomed in to mime the awareness levels and their basic manifestations through Kuchipudi style of interpretation. It was the costumes that differentiated the schools of dance rather than the abhinaya, at least in the first round. Rashmi Menon reflected the art of true meditation with beautiful stances that were wide-ranging with measured movements. The Kathak enumerated the answers to true silence that leads to meditation. The Essence of Life got unfolded in the second round with a set of principles and analyses ably handled by the artistes through their individual styles. We could catch glimpses of the styles as the dancers changed into typical costumes reflecting their respective streams. Masako Ono looked lithe as she launched into the subject of ‘Understanding our minds,’ the opening lines of which were in English (voice-over) and the same repeated in a Sanskrit song interlaced with jatis, giving scope to a brief execution of footwork. The Odissi footwork was perhaps the only one which went according to the ‘ukkutas’ (syllabic utterances to rhythm).

However, one cannot but notice that the mandatory sway was missing as the dancer encircled the stage! The other dancers who continued the theme, replaced the adavu-sollukattu with charis which was justifiable only with Mohiniattam where the footwork cannot take a rapid pace going by the format of this genre. Smitha emoted on the element of fear that takes grip over human life in myriad ways. Prateeksha did a fairly good job with her part of the theme, a rather tricky (by dance standards) ‘Can we live without problems?’ with Kuchipudi to buttress her abhinaya. Rashmi Menon had the advantage of showcasing the change that is warranted in human beings in a society that is torn by violence, misery and such negative aspects. This was a more tangential subject to handle than the previous two, hence she came up with aplomb. True to the nature of Kathak, Achutamanasa had to reflect the ‘Beauty of love’ which she did with expressions of romance and chakkars to denote her style.

The love spoken about at this juncture was universal amity which the artiste should have concentrated upon.

The finale was tillana where the artistes merged their styles in utter sync forming artistic patterns as they moved along in measured footsteps. The figure five was suggestive of the five tattvas (elements) present in all of us in, complementary to the five elements of Nature. The coming together of the five streams of dance suggested the unification of various into a single entity. Kudos to the conceptual designer and the producer for having successfully pulled off an altogether unexplored concept with an artistic translation that made sense.

Ranee Kumar