Adjectives fall short when it comes to describing a dance programme that begins with a Bharatanatyam recital praising Lord Shiva – presented by a Croatian native and concludes with a belly dance piece by an Indian dancer!
The trouble goes up manifold because this particular evening at Stein Auditorium at IHC marked the end of a week-long World Dance Day celebrations by Spandan and turned out to be a melange of Indian dance forms such as classical (Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Odissi) and Mayurbhanj Chhau along with classical ballet, Flamenco, Bulerías and belly dance!
It was a visual treat to see Carolina Prada a young dancer from Colombia, pay tribute to Nataraja through Mayurbhanj Chhau. A disciple of Guru Janmejoy Sai Babu, Carolina’s balancing acts and yoga mudras coupled with exquisite moves were exemplary. Her dance piece in classical media, depicted three predominant moods that constitute the nature of the Lord of Dance - Shiva, namely the peaceful and yogic state of preservation, the frenzy of destruction in which he kills the demon of ego and ignorance and the ecstatic bliss when he recreates the universe.
The other two dancers in this section, Nikolina Nikoleski and Nitisha Nanda also presented Shiv Stutis. While Nikolina staged a classical piece describing ornaments and attributes of the cosmic dancer - Nataraja, Nitisha performed Odissi on a Sanskrit hymn describing Shiva’s power and beauty and which is said to have been sung by Shiv-bhakt Ravana.
Nikolina’s choreography included a lot of mudras but her facial expression remained unvarying, whereas the tandav stotram by Nitisha had abhinaya blended beautifully with fluid dance movements that were adapted from a semi-classical version of the hymn but set to pure Odissi by Samir Kumar Behra.
This classical treat continued with Quincy Kendell Charles performing Kathak. A disciple of Guru Jai Kishan Maharaj of the Lucknow gharana and Guru Prerna Shrimali of the Jaipur gharana, presented Taal Dhamaar. Taal Dhaamar is performed in a time cycle of 14 beats or matras where the dancer displays technique combining elements of laasya and tandav. Quincy excelled in the pirouettes or chakkars for which the Jaipur gharana is renowned.
The energetic performances set the tone for more enthusiasm and energy to follow. A Flamenco dancer Paola Santa Cruz, opened with a dramatic composition by Roque Baños for Salome. With zeal she captured some of the many emotions that flamenco can express - anguish and sadness, followed by Tango - a flamenco style.
Her final piece was Bulerías which is one of the most popular styles of Flamenco. The dance movements performed were distinctive with fast tempo and playfulness executed along with palmas (handclapping) and jaleo (encouragement) with accompaniment by three other female dancers dressed similarly.
Soon after, the stage was ready for a revolution as the dancers who had performed in the first section, were back but in different avatars! From performing Indian classical initially, they now took to stage to present Western dance forms such as classical ballet, Colombian folk dance and belly dance.
Nikolina performed a short ballet on famous French opera Lakmé by composer Leo Delibes. Her soft, graceful and flowy performance had a mesmerising effect on the audience, almost calming them – in a manner of speaking. The emotion soon turned joyous with Carolina presenting the Colombian folk dance. The first one drew upon a popular number from the Caribbean coasts called Cumbia, with its influence of African rhythms which came together in the flamboyant movements of the voluminous skirts. The second one gave glimpses of a traditional swordplay of the peasants and coffee collectors as a way to entertain themselves after work. She was joined by Ania Pieniek and Sergio Bermejo.
The mood became exuberant when Nitisha presented a belly dance - the Drum Solo. With a combination of various rhythms like - Balaedi, Saidi, Khaleeji, Felahi and Ayub belonging to both Egypt and the Gulf, the dance was as energetic as it was captivating. “Since the beats were tricky, one wrong step could have ruined the whole show as mine was the concluding act,” shared Nitisha after successfully interpreting the beats. “I had to restrict my emotions and remain within a certain composure while performing Odissi,” she added.
The brain behind the show, R. Sreenivasan of Spandan said that he purposely looked for dancers who are proficient in two dance forms. “We started with traditional dances of India but if we would have continued with only these then except for puritans, the rest would have left. I thus wanted to showcase those dancers who have made India their home and are passionate about the art and have done excellent work.”