Dance

Sharmila Mukherjee tells 'Swan Lake' story through Odissi

Illuminating the stage: A performance at the event  

It was like a Broadway theatrical with its rich tapestry – absolute aesthetics, melodic music, suave stage settings and elegant dance. The ballet Hansika as the name suggests, moved as gracefully as a swan for all the 70 minutes that it was performed. The lucid, languorous medium of Odissi seemed ideal to the adaptation of the Russian ballet Swan Lake (by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) into an Indian classical idiom. And Sharmila Mukherjee (choreographer-dancer) with her ensemble (Sanjali Centre for Odissi dance) made it a delectable treat, hardly compromising on the classicality of the art form.

Illusion of swans

Right from costumes to stage lighting to creative backdrop, the illusion of swans in a lake moving their feet in tandem to the unseen taal of Odissi was created with convincing artistic reality. The group of dancers dressed in pristine, shimmery white, slightly modified Odissi costume with sleeves fashioned into make-believe wings everytime their arms went up, were an art connoisseur’s delight. Each frame had its quotient of dance to mnemonics as well as sheer music even while enacting the story which takes us to a prince charming falling in love with a damsel who is accursed to be a swan along with many others (swans) by the day and humans by night, wherein she can transform into her real life. The curse had been meted out by none other than her envious sister who gets defeated by her in a dance contest. The only redemption is that true love can bring about a permanent transformation to human in her swan life.

Sharmila Mukherjee tells 'Swan Lake' story through Odissi

Deviation from original

The prince and swan princess decide to get married but at the nick of the moment, the evil sister impersonates as the bride and ends up marrying the prince gets distraught. In a nutshell, the story takes a tragic turn with the damsel turning into a swan forever, a slight deviation from the Russian original.

A lot of fine detailing like swan dancers moving in tow close to the backdrop with tall tree trunks to create the illusion of the boundary to the lake; the use of yellow light disc and silver disc on the backdrop to denote the sun and moon which again correspond to the dancing swans turning into humans as per the curse in the forefront made for a picture perfect presentation. Certain scenes that captivated the audience are worth a mention. Of these, the very opening scene with its muted lighting presents before us a semi-circular group of dancers in pure white costumes almost in a supine posture miming with just one hand raising it up and down, lifting their heads slowly and slightly in keeping with the music in the background. And when they rise like birds- with shining tiaras encircling their forehead, white flowers in the rear of their hairdo and silver jewellery (a la Odissi) – their dance was reminiscent of the swans’ dainty movements.

The prince, the only male dancer in the troupe executed a crisp but impressive Odissi footwork as he searches and hunts in the jungle. So did Sharmila Mukherjee (evil enchantress sister) prove to be an accomplished dancer with striking footwork and statuesque postures. A few more scenic excellences like the portrayal of the plight of the swans as they spy the hunter prince was brought out beautifully by the dancers who dally around the stage to rhythm and music on knees and toes with stealthy expression and hustling to one corner as if in fear to escape the hunter, were as close to the birds’ natural instincts as possible in an artistic medium. The dance of the two sisters (good and wicked) went like a conversation; a touch of nativity through marriage ceremony in the Indian tradition and an oblique reference to pollution of water bodies (lakes where swans wither and die) were very carefully crafted within the mosaic of the theme. The production was hosted at Delhi’s Kamani auditorium.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 7:23:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/captivating-choreography/article25623502.ece

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