Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Prakriti Excellence in Contemporary Dance - Day 1

Thanks galore to Prakriti Foundation for bringing such a huge pool of dance talent to the shores of Chennai. What better place to drop anchor than the lovely Kalakshetra, rubbing contemporary dance off against tradition, and hoping to ignite minds. Well done Ranvir and Priyadarshini Govind, great plot there..

It was a great start to the evening with the performance of Avantika Bahl's"Say, What?'. It kind of set the trend for the evening. Yes, these were thinking performers. They had an idea to present, something they had researched upon and carefully incorporated steps into their repertoire. The viewer has to keep vigil and be continuously engaged with the thinking of the choreographer to enjoy the performance, a moment's slackness can lead u into a deep slumber.

Avantika had chosen to present her understanding of the mind of a deaf individual. She was greatly accompanied onstage by one such differently gifted performer. however the story she chose to weave her performance around sounded high on saccharine, but that doesn't take anything away from the great movements and symphony. 

'Where Should i Look' by Atul kumar, seemed to convey the struggle of and man who is troubled by trans gender feelings. It seemed to convey his struggle between his self and his desires in the backdrop of the society, and seemed to suggest that with no where to go he finally takes refuge in renunciation. But the write up in the hand out convey ideas that seem far fetched.  

'Fitting room' by Surabhi Jain set off on roll the most popular idea of the evening, that would be hoisted again by other groups, that of 'conformity'. Surabhi had conceived the performance around Jenness' ' Jar of coffee beans'. The very fact that not much of an answer was forthcoming from the audience to the performer's repeated call for a guess, seemed aptly to mirror the audience its 'conformity to a collective mum'.

Ronita Mookerji's 'Who?', was a loud and a different performance. There was experimentation with lighting, with space, appearance, sound and explorations in unrefined, primitive movements. it was the struggle of a primitive mind with the question of identity.

In 'F4' by Virieno Christina, the performance seemed to have ended before one could get a hold of the idea projected.

' White noise' by Aprna Nagesh had a great idea to start with. But the length made u wonder if they harped little too longer on that simple idea. it was, however, refreshing to see dancers of different frames efficiently carrying the show. it was a reassuring proof that the stage was not necessarily only for the slim and fair. 

'23.4/ 15.8' by Riya Mandal simply bowled me over. It was a dance that gradually grew from Random movements, to bursts of intersections to a struggle for domination to an exploration of peace to a beautiful meditation on harmony. This performance simply blinded my eyes and i just did not have the vision for the performances that followed and also had revise my reviews of the previous performances a tad lower in this new light. it was a double bonanza to watch the performance allover again, due to a blessed technical glitch, and it was a bliss to see these seemingly random movements fall exactly in place. it is a performance one could watch over and over again. it was the clear winner of the day for me!!!

 It was very difficult for me to put up with the exigencies of ' What are you here for' by Priyabrat Panigrahi, particularly after the spell binding earlier treat. the performance seemed to explore dance through mundane daily activities. The performer seemed ambitious, and it showed through the performance and pushed the rest to the back burner.

'Edges' by Megna Bharadwaj lacked in sharpness, the dancer being boxed within a space, which formed the core of the performance, could have been conveyed with greater prominence.

'Folktale' by Nachom was a refreshingly welcome break from all that heady ideas and philosophy. It was a simple folk exploration of sound and movement. The twist movements by a dancer in aerial position carried by another looked subliminal; the sound of the flute was mesmerising; the simple beats of the stick, soothing and  the taste of the lemon bitter and pungent.

'Spider Solo' by Jyotsana Rao looked like a great idea that failed to take off. the movements seemed to be inspired more by the 'Spider man' than the spider.

It would interesting to see how do students of Kalakshetra respond to these great dances from across India, thoughtfully curated by Karthika Nair. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ayirathoru Iravugal- a Play

As a part of The Hindu Theatre fest, got to witness this cracker of a play. I went to the play expecting to see a musical rendering of the stories, at least that is what the colorful and choreographed posters led me to believe. But i got instead was such a wonderfully thought out comic n contemporary rendition of the tales.

The Arabian nights are such a universally popular bunch of stories, and the director, Vinodhini Vaidynathan had an unending quiver of stories to draw from, the trick was in how was she going to render them. This she makes it clear in the first few scenes. A silhouetted scene portraying a couple making out, sets the 'no holds barred' standard  for the play.

Yes, in the course of spinning out tales from the Arabian nights the director takes dig at so many contemporary streams hogging the tamil mind, from Kollywood to 'Neeya Naana' gopinath no one is spared. Lest the tales should sound desert dry, she has laced in a fresh breeze in the form of south Indian Charecters of Tenaliraman and Krishnadeveraya. 

The introduction to the play rightly claims the director has tried using different theatre techniques to weave the tales. Yes, very interesting and innovative techniques, indeed. Tirupathi Laddu becomes a counter for the tales, a mopping stick becomes a horse and so much more.

Modern Plays are known to make such a proficient use of their actors, that they require them to play many different roles during the course of the play. But this play i believe would set a special record in that category, what with one actor playing atleast 39 different roles!! This also requires the audience to be alert, for if they blink they would miss a lot of fun.

Talking of fun, this play could gift you a hearty laugh, and so much to think about. Even a mundane act like the Sultan entering the stage every other day is laced with so much that the audience is made to look out for what is going to be different this time. 

The presence of Bhargav and Shravan brings to mind a train of 'Short and sweet' performances. Every actor in the play excelled and impressed with their performance diction and techniques. Special mention should be made of how a minor glitch in the property was cleverly handled by the actors. Its a credit to the team that i am unable to decide whether a dumb charade sequence that followed a character loosing his mike was stage managed or a part of the script.

The music and Choreography keep us engaged and entertained amidst the charade of wits. This team has so much energy and enterprise in them that they could keep going for 1001 nights and it would be a treat to watch them again and again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Anaayaasa- An experimentation in Dance

When you hear that an artist friend, known for her unconventional thoughts, challenging established patterns, a subaltern outlook and expressiveness was conceiving an experiment in dance and staging it at Spaces, Beasant nagar, your expectations of the event rise a few notches.

Knowing Samatha Sharma for around a year now, i was quite eagerly looking forward to witness Anaayaasa, an experimentation in dance effortlessness. I walked in  a few minutes late, to cymbals and drums beating Kerala style, the music reaching me before the dance, as i was approaching the performance space, wondering what spectacle was awaiting me.

i was glad to join a hand full crowd and settle down happily into a reflective mood watching the performance. on the stage there was Samatha reeling off in what looked like a set of alliterative movements, shaking to music. Now when i think of her movement, which more or less struck to a pattern, my mind plays a totally strange, swirling disco music of its own to accompany it.  She had Arun Oliverse accompanying her or rather alongside her exploring his own movement with the music. If not for Arun's presence and movements, one could have easily thought Samatha was in a disco.

But Arun's own distinct strides with the music put this performance in perspective. it set the stage or rather the boundary  for ideas to be brought in. Ideas variously stated as the restriction to freedom, Male Chauvinism on the female dancers, Patriarchy, The beats of Time, etc. by the audience at the end of the show.

In retrospect, it looks like Arun's movement was the game changer. it is the one that makes the viewer think- what are these guys upto, what are they trying to say. I think, that is exactly what the creator had in mind, and there in lies the success of this performance.

At the end of a short piece, Mrinalini sekar joins the duo on stage. She brought in a different flavor of movement. Her's was a little more refined and structured movement. Her movements reflected  certain discipline and conviction. Mrinalini's movements were like a creeper plant twsiting and turning around a support. Though it was all random, there was a certain discipline to it. Whereas, Samatha's movements were like a kite blowing with the wind, it had lots of energy and high degree of froce and randomness.

there were moments when the creeper and kite come together and a viewer desires to see a  certain synchronicity captured, but is left rebuking self for entertaining such stupid thoughts. for, here was not a decorative performance, but an exploratory one, here there was no point in looking for symbolism or motifs.

As Samatha expressed at the end of the performance that she wanted the dancers to find their own language/ alphabets in finding expression to the music, that much was very evident in the performance. The performance was like a triptych of three different movement expressions to a music. The three movements interplaying  with each other, giving the viewers anxious moments, but finally leaving the viewer with three fine distinct languages/ statements.

Congratulations to Samatha for conceiving and idea and bringing it to life, and to Mrinalini and Arun for truly believing and subscribing to a new and strange idea. well done Team.