Jonathan Hollander: ‘India is our favourite port of call’

Evam hosted the dance programme by Hollaner’s Battery Dance Company  

St. Andrews Auditorium, Bandra, was near full on a working week day with art enthusiasts travelling from distant suburbs to watch the performance of Jonathan Hollander’s Battery Dance Company, New York. Evam was hosted by Rasabodhi Art Foundation, spearheaded by young dance practitioner Keerthana Ravi.

‘Observatory’ by South African choreographer Theo Ndindwa was the opening sequence, which was a seamless spectacle of solo skills, synchronised duet and and pulsating group formations. The artistes moved fluidly, in linear and circular patterns, carrying or climbing on another partner, doing somersaults, gliding, flying, rolling on the stage, punctuated with silent pauses. Each was nimble and athletic, the supple body lending itself challenging movements and stretches.

The Mallari in Bharatanatyam mode — music by Rakesh from Mysore, choreographed and presented solo by Unnath Hassan Rathnaraju — was based on episodes from the Vishnupurana. ‘Gajendra Moksham’ was graphically delineated. The light effect made a great impact, especially in the Govardhan episode. Recorded sounds of lashing rain and cries of frightened birds seeking shelter heightened the effect.

Unnath’s stage presence, his silhouettes set against the white backdrop and lucid expressions enhanced the presentation. He did not wear the anklets and the sporadic bell sounds in the pre-recorded music did not match at times. Having engaged in a creative residency with Battery Dance Company, Unnath, as expressed by Hollander, helped “find the ineffable space between two art forms.”

“Watch and find your own story,” announced Hollander before the India premier of ‘The Red Line,’ choreographed by Tadej Brdnik. The haunting score by Syrian-American composer Kinan Azmeh provided the “spell-binding intrigue” that permeates this dramatic work by the next-generation of Battery Dance choreographers. The seamless steps of the dancers, gliding and pacing with the long red fabric flowing, trailing and folding, underscored that art indeed knows no boundaries. The spacious stage became a creative canvas with the dancers using their bodies to paint fascinating and appealing configurations.

‘Shakti: A Return to the Source’ with women taking the lead, was a fitting finale to the seven-city India tour of the Company. Sculptural duets formed the central piece of the work. Sonorous music by Rajan and Sajan Mishra in Raag Durga lifted the performance. Hollander conceived this music in 1992, when he was a lecturer at M.S. University in Vadodara. For the 40th Anniversary of Battery Dance Company, Hollander choreographed the piece deploying sophisticated rhythms. Unnath, featured as a guest artiste in Shakti, during the genesis of the choreography, has toured with the company ever since.

“We are a globe-trotting dance company that has electrified audiences in 70 countries to date. India is our favourite port of call with appearances in 17 cities, demonstrating that East and West can come together through dynamic, thought-provoking and visually arresting dance,” said Hollander. “Besides performances, screening the film ‘Moving Stories’ in Mumbai was a great joy,” he added.

As a teenager, he lived in Mumbai in 1968 with the family of Siddharth and Nirupama Mehta, studied painting and music with Dinesh Shah at the New Era School. His first encounter with classical Indian dance was when he witnessed the exquisite Manipuri dance by the Jhaveri Sisters andgGuru Parvati Kumar training Sucheta Bhide Chapekar. At the end of the show Hollander had the privilege of embracing the legendary Darshana Jhaveri, a regular at Mumbai dance events.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 9:29:30 AM |

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