Poetry in motion

Tanusree Shankar's ‘We The Living,' based on the translation of Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi's ‘Human Beings.'

Updated - July 11, 2016 10:36 pm IST

Published - May 31, 2012 06:48 pm IST

DAZZLING: From We The Living Photo: Special Arrangement

DAZZLING: From We The Living Photo: Special Arrangement

Inspired by the Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi's ‘Human Beings', translated by Coleman Barks, conceived and choreographed by renowned dancer Tanusree Shankar, Ananda Shankar Centre for Performing Arts , Kolkata , presented an emotionally-charged lyrical dance, ‘We The Living,' at Kalamandir, Kolkata.

Tanusree, celebrated daughter-in-law of the great Master Uday Shankar, has not only continued the legacy of the ‘new age' dance with elan, but manages the rare feat of handling and integrating the intellectual and cultural thought convincingly with the ideologies of her artistic insight with skill.

Rumi spoke a universal language and so did Tanusree's offering through the vocabulary of movement and passionate music. And the relationship co-exists.

Rumi contemplates beings as having transcended cultural systems, religions and even elemental specificity; existing neither as body or soul but seeing the two as one. Tanusree's presentation celebrates what may be called the life force. She moulds her vision into a choreographic structure representing this force as evolving out of chaotic, amoebic shapelessness to attain a bodily form.

The performance opened with light forms, ethereal movements by a group of competent dancers in white, accompanied by the refrain of a bamboo flute and the subtlety of soft Arabian music (strings), that introduced a spiritual atmosphere –‘Ruhaniyat' in the true sense.

Sounds of ripples of water, tabla-theka and the alaap of ‘Pancha indriyas' ushered in the five senses beginning with ‘dristhti' and followed by the nine rasas (moods).

Geometric formations

Tanusree uses a lot of geometric formations, intricate depiction of the text, her signature style, which does not function according to any identity structure, nor does she mix styles.

This production had something fresh to offer in terms of choreography and theme. Her approach evolved a distinct sensitive choreography with the use of mellifluous songs such as ‘Saurabhi Ranjita Ghranendriyam Sugandhi Bibhorita' and ‘Sparshey Shiharita Dibar Chetanam' underlining the theme of ‘Indriyas'. Use of piano at this point was so piercing and alive with the dances and symphony music, that even to the most casual viewer, her choreography would reveal her main ideas and the underlying nuances of Rumi's poetry.

Ballet steps, matched with mild jumps and movements on the floor, allowed the rasas to seep in with Shubha Mudgal's rich timbre, ‘Hum Hain Rayain Ke.' The choreography of the nava-rasa, unfolded the usual pattern of Tanusree's composition, punctuated by a number of friezes set to impressive music such as ‘Om Rabba Re Rabba.'

The last segment was a wealth of melodic and harmonic beauty, subtlety, exquisite workmanship and unerring sense of choreographic tradition with the emotion of the poem as a whole.

It was the portrayal of a devotee's intense search for God, only to realise that divinity lies within. Tanusree's solo contribution at this juncture with a variety of steps in sequence emphasising Rumi's thinking, was the manifestation of virtuosity. Her trance-like rotation of the body, which the whirling dervishes produced, tearful appeal to God that culminated in the integration of the devotee with the Divine, reached the height of ecstasy when the group joined in. Moving in circles, the dancers with raised hands and quivering fingers attained perfect equilibrium with the accompanying symphony music, strokes of the rabab and the impassionate singing of ‘Tarasha Mandir, Masjid Tarasha, Tarsha Girja, Kahina Khuda Mila. Apne Ander Jhaakey , Wohin Khuda Ka Basera.' Tanusree became emotional as did a section of the audience with the final ‘Pranasudha bahati.'

The harmonised and interpenetrating state of choreographic ecstasy emphasised the principal theme of unity as the dancers gradually moved closer forming a tight ring with the master choreographer at the centre. Certainly a production of pure optical beauty, sharpened by technique.

The organic approach was not really style. The cumulative development of the wonderful music composed by Debojyoti Mishra, musical sketches and serenades by Shubha Mudgal and Shafkat Amanat Ali, a magnificent Persian overture by Sukanya Ghosh, Arabian strings by Tapas Roy, Armenian pipes by Vachagan Tadevosyan, touching verse and vibes by Vaskar Chowdhury (Devnagari) and Jonaki Mukherjee (Urdu) and the costumes added to the unforgettable presentation.

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