Gauri Sharma Tripathi’s definition of ‘Circa’ as a time for new beginnings was certainly in evidence as she joined forces with beatbox performer and South Bank Associate Artist Shlomo. They found common ground in Urban Vani, a kathak choir where the vibrancy of over thirty young dancers and their vocalised bols opened a playful exploration of harmonic layers. Imaginative and repetitively layered sounds rose to a complex crescendo before transforming into a major attitude adjustment. Initially hinting at the kathak form with a fragmented use of gesture and takar, the dancers’ orderly groupings disintegrate as they change into streetwise breakers joining Shlomo in some vocal acrobatics. Their cheeky transformation reveals the multicultural mix which today’s youth engages in so readily. In movement terms, Urban Vani paves the way for the dances which followed, also infused with contemporary choreographic approaches. In Moving Roots – Stories of Migration, Tripathi revised the Manch Pravesh for Seema Patel and Payal Patel (reviewed in the spring issue Pulse), who were joined by Sandip Mallick and Subrata Pandit as the narratives of family migration seamlessly moved into a rhythmic conversation of duets.
A return to tradition occurs in Daksha Yagna – Uma’s Dilemma, as Tripathi’s subtle abhinaya conveys Uma’s rebirth as Parvati. Her elegance and depth of experience set a high standard for her upcoming dancers to attain. In Savan Ki – Welcoming Monsoons allowed Tripathi delves into emotional depths of longing for her beloved. These dramatic interludes frame a Trivat of nritya, offering a multifaceted perspective of the traditional kathak.
Tripathi’s forte is clarity of choreographic craft revealed in a rich movement tapestry where fragments of the kathak form build upon each other. Distinctive performance spaces –diagonals, boxes and circular pathways – are utilised to their fullest. Black gauze screens dividing the stage are replaced by squares of light in ‘Time Lapse – Random Shifts’. Described as rhythm scapes of fast-paced nritta, the dancers play with Mike Mannion’s lighting design, dancing in and out of boxes of light that expand and contract, compelling each other on as the tempo and rhythmic complexity increase.
The multi-layered spectacle ended with ‘Allah Hoo – Sufi Synergy’ where exquisite fabrics flow out from spinning bodies to evoke whirling dervish trance dances. A kaleidoscope of colour and rhythm celebrates theatricality closed the evening’s circular journey. Co-collaborators guru Padma Sharma, John Marc-Gowan and Alaknanda Smarth were joined by Sanju Sahai’s exquisite tabla in compositions by Niraj Chag and Alies Sluiter with Chandra Chakraborty’s haunting vocals. A solid group of accomplished students support a core of young professionals in unison work with clear tatkars and sharp and speedy chakkars allowing individual flair to shine through.
‘Circa’ offers a multi-generational fusion where the boundaries between percussive and movement forms blur, but are always underpinned by kathak roots.