Tones of cosmic cycles

Dancers in “Brahmakalpa”, a joint Indo-Malaysian creation   | Photo Credit: 31dfrleela

A well-filled Kamani auditorium in New Delhi seemed specially activated watching the infectiously explosive energy of dancers in “Brahmakalpa”, a joint Indo-Malaysian creation led by Rama Vaidyanathan and Ajit Bhaskar Dass, the evening sponsored by Sarvam Foundation in association with Kri Foundation.

The theme and choreography by Rama with Ajit Bhaskar as artistic director, woven round the energies of the cosmic cycle of creation, dissolution and resurrection, had as a vital take-off point — six strong Bharatanatyam dancers aided by a well-knit and rehearsed group of accompanists. Rhythm with its vocabulary of mnemonics is an invaluable language to discuss relative aspects like Time, which as a creation of the human mind is not absolute, and Shiv Kumar with his rhythmic input and nattuvangam provided a fine way of interpreting the energy ‘bindu’ exploding to form the universe. Rhythm’s bristling energy in one entering male dancer’s agility, with both rhythm and dancers expanding and multiplying, with the whole group forming the universe in the line “Prakrit Urjaya Mahaaspotavadaha” made a strong energetic statement. K. Venkateshwaran‘s innovative musical score and singing with L. Vasudevan’s vocal support, apart from putting together two voices which combine very well, by swelling melodic body of the chants and melodies, helped evoke that feel of largeness, suitable for an expansive theme trying to catch tones of cosmic cycles. This along with harmonising and playing with sound with the echo effect and having varied percussion interventions through tavil, kanjira and mridangam, gave the musical accompaniment the right tone.

Surya namaskar movements paid homage to the cosmic energy manifesting as the sun, its warmth representing the beginning of life on earth. Recognising earth as mother with the people as her progeny (“Mata Bhoomi Putroaham Prithivyaha”) with just Bhaskar as the sun and Rama as earth interacting for a while, with each revolving on its own axis, was a slow sequence, very intelligently thought out. But somewhere, the lighting was not perfect and the sequence lost out on clarity. Perhaps, maintaining a greater distance between the two characters with a larger spot could make the effect of the sun’s movements with light and darkness effect on earth stand out better.

What I found very moving was the Neelambari prelude played on the violin by Viji Shivanand. Srishti, Stithi, Laya’s unending cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution presided over by the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, were all passing phases and while the Dashavatar sequence for Vishnu symbolised evolution with each dancer holding the movement with iconographic symbols for each avatar (which included Krishna and not Buddha), with the music delighting in tanam sounds, the dance visualisation revelled in the imagery of nature with bees, birds and trees and animals. Finally, to the strong tavil sounds came dissolution, to be followed by new birth which was well shown through minimal symbols, like the slowly blooming lotus.

The second part aimed at catching that omnipotent essence which is present in every aspect of life. From the Vedas to Sangam poetry, the theme — now trying to weave in the spiritual-erotic combine — was expressed through the yearning and eternal search of the individual soul for its cosmic identity. This truth, which is the heat within fire, the fragrance within a flower, the gem within the stone and the truth in a word, the energy in the sun, the cool light of the moon, the essence within scriptures, and the energy in the elements, was shown through interpretative bursts, by Rama and Bhaskar.

The last part, ushered through Sindhu Bhairavi on the cycle of time which moves on inexorably waiting for no man (“Kalo Ashwo Vahati”), showed the play of time (“Kalo Kridati”), cast in a combination of melodic note patterns and a whole gamut of ragas. This had the group of six, Rama and Bhaskar, with Rama’s students — daughter Dakshina and Uma Govind — and Bhaskar’s disciples from Malaysia, Vijayan Veeryen and Partibhan Sethu, appear and disappear in quick solo and group flashes of rhythmic zeal. What with mandi adavus executed at breakneck speed, with the dancers in fine sync, “Om Tat Sat Ekam, Brahma”, spelt the final silence. Perhaps cutting out about ten minutes of this rhythmic frenzy would make the work even more effective. A fine effort at artists from different regions coming together!

Zestful Kathak

What with the Diwali ‘dhamaka’, dance, when it happened to show its face during the last two weeks, carried the same quality of high energy. At the recent IIC Experience, Vishal Krishna with his Benares gharana Kathak enchanted the gathering in the open-air space of the Fountain Lawns. While the peculiar flavour of Benarasi culture is all too evident in his Kathak inherited from a family legacy of great artists like Sitara Devi and late Gopi Krishna, the high vaulting energy of his one-legged chakkars and ‘sam’ finishes with full-seated squat on the floor after movements executed at speed, go with an unconsciousness in the dancer of his own persona which is rare today. But Vishal’s Teen tala nritta sagged in tempo with far too many tabla interventions. His brother is no doubt an excellent tabla player, but such frequent solo splashes in a dance programme do not allow the dancer’s effort to register fully. As usual, Vishal’s plate dance (much like Kuchipudi tarangam) showed how this form of dancing was practised by more than one classical tradition. It was in the latter half that Vishal really came into his own in the drut section.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2021 8:37:50 AM |

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