Dance

Lotus lore

Alapadana by Apsaras Arts. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

The age old name of the hasta-mudra or the hand gesture abstracting the full blown lotus, ‘Alapadma,’ was the title of Apsaras Arts’ latest Natya production, staged in different venues. The last in the series, hosted by BIFAC in collaboration with Narada Gana Sabha at the Gnanananda Hall on Sunday morning, also saw founder Neila Satyalingam receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to Natya.

This Singapore-based company has a vibrant artistic team on the production side led by director Aravinth. Pleasing dancers displayed high quality and the movements were well rehearsed. The content was backed by variety in the segments and structures, sustaining their mutual dynamics throughout. The choreography by Mohanapriyan constantly emphasised the group nature of the pieces with the odd solo and duet thrown in to liven up some narrative sections.

The opening Srishti Sarasija section drew from the Egyptian lotus concept — some body movements here were stylistically different. The emerging of the Sun was made explicit by the use of lighting, although one wished that the Sun’s first entry which had lights from behind had also let us see his face in that first instance. The drama of the moment would then have intensified. The Vishnu-Brahma exposition, which followed, was word based and less abstract and drew to a memorable visual climax.

While the text-based interpretation continued through the second segment with the genesis of Lakshmi, followed by Saraswati, both lotus born, the stage was busy. When the strains of Dhim Tanana in Yamankalyani wafted, it was like a fragrant breeze. The choreographic set up of a duet interpreting the dhruvapada or first line of the poem, with elaborations of every lotus that poet Tulsidas had visualised in relation to his beloved Rama, offered some of the best abhinaya moments of Alapadma.

There was a beautiful piece of nritta, a signature Alapadma dance, even as the programme identified it as the Buddha’s walk on the sacred lotuses. In the Alankara Ambuja section, a signature composition drew its visualisation from the gestural text in the Abhinaya Darpana elaborating its uses in natya. This was developed with individual detail on dancers performing consecutively letting the audience savour the nuances.

Some cross referencing of contemporary texts here (Mohanam) and an earlier Kamba Ramayana line in the previous section confused the plot somewhat instead of exemplifying it. The lighting design was challenging, meaning complex, and sensitive to the theme and solo or group nature. When timed to fit in with the Arudis in the music, sometimes the climaxes were slightly out of alignment for instance Manmatha’s exit…. when stage rehearsal is not possible, it makes sense to reduce the manoeuvres to those that are predictably successful. The use of the smoke machine throughout reduced its impact on the special, mystical moments.

The musical component of Alapadma was superb. All the drum intros and finishes (T. Ramanan) were exciting; Chitrapoornima’s vocals were melodious as was Balakrishnan in vocal percussion and rhythm infused poetry. The variations of musical forms such as alapana, swaras, etc., and the use of the flute (Vijayvishnu) and the violin (Ishwar), the Rajkumar Bharati composition in Hamsanandi and Niranjani for the Chakras will remain in one’s memory. To have achieved the standard of aural balance in a live performance with so many players was remarkable and a real treat to the audience.

While the references to other cultural lore were cloaked in the same format, taken as a classical Indian dance work, ‘Alapadma’ was wholly successful.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 11:02:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/alapadma-is-apsaras-arts-latest-natya-production/article8309317.ece

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