‘Snake and Ladder’ review: a mix of styles

snake & ladder

snake & ladder   | Photo Credit: Ganesh Ramachandran


The dance presentation was about the fight between life and death

As the curtains rose 45 minutes behind schedule, the stage ambience grabbed the audience attention. A rope ladder on one end, a step ladder with a blood red cloth draped around it on the other, a long acrobatic pole in the centre, a black rectangular box with a snake and a couple of dice scattered around, seem to convey the gist of the production — Snake and Ladder. Presented by Navarasa Dance Theatre and Tanmaya Dance Company, its Chennai premiere was held recently at Narada Gana Sabha. Aparna Sindhoor and Anil Natyaveda were in charge of choreography and direction. Script was by S.M. Raju and music by Isaac Thomas Kottukapally. Madhurima Narla was the guest artiste.

Conceptually, the production held great promise. It is the story of a prince returning home and being hailed for his victory in a war. As he undergoes post-traumatic stress disorder, death comes knocking at his door. The king challenges death to a game of snakes and ladders, hoping for a chance at life. The confrontation between life and death had little segments touching upon stories of Markandeya and his victory over death, Abhimanyu caught in a maze — chakravyuha, tribal beliefs of animal and human sacrifices and so on.

The desire to appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers, beyond the routine audience base for classical dance, led to an amalgamation of styles. The production was a blend of Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, folk dance, martial arts and aerial acts. The musical score too travelled across genres.

Parallel message

There was a continuous flow of activity from one scene to another. Finally, we are left with the message that we need to take care of our environment by nurturing trees and animal life.

The enthusiasm and energy of the dancers managed to sustain a certain amount of interest, but the production fell short on presentation technique. The mask for Ashwamedha segment and the movements, dancers draped in long pieces of white cloth to suggest chakravyuha and the aerial acts needed more refinement.

Musically too, the depiction of various styles were not seamless; they appeared as standalone pieces. The use of a English version of a Kishore Kumar song ‘Aa chalke tujhe’ struck a jarring note.

The main focus of the production — confrontation between Life and Death, got relegated to the background with other sequences dominating the proceedings. It is fine to aspire for a Broadway and Bollywood meets Bharatanatyam to attract new audiences, but the success depends on the aesthetic appeal of the final outcome.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:34:50 PM |

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