The choreography incorporates three dancers immersed in a large melting-pot of classical Indian dance meets contemporary; kalaripayattu meets aerial acrobatics; puppetry and spoken word. Juxtaposed by a simple yet nostalgic set: a humbly captivating stage covered with delicately hand-crafted large masks, hanging and softly swinging above an abundance of large wheat sacks.
While the female dancer Aditi Mangaldas spins across the floor with sprightly grace, the male dancer and choreographer Sudesh Adhana explodes through the space with angular and valiant execution. Adhana’s performance resembles a forever intermission time bomb, yet at the same time soft on his feet and as rapid as a cheetah – really quite gripping. At one point we forget we are in a conventional theatre space in the Norwegian National Opera House and feel as if we were watching a quirky aerial artist at the circus in Delhi, a genius moment!
Adhana strives to use a diverse platform of vocabulary to shape an ambitious succession of metaphors about the Mahabharata Sanskrit epic narrative of ancient India. Although there are strong moments where the choreography draws us into a potent evocative memory, the transitions became distracting and there comes a point when we start to need clearer signposts to follow the direction of Adhana’s ideas.
The puppetry was beautiful to watch, floating across the stage with an enthralling quality. A narrative finally starts to unfold when the dancers interact and are somewhat manipulated by the puppet – could this have been developed further? More of this quality amalgamation of human and puppetry performance would have been welcomed. As the choreography evolves, it’s harder to hold on to the ideas around ‘the great tale of the Bharata dynasty’.
The most convincing moment was when the three dancers came together front of stage, engaging in a spoken word battle. Perhaps also when Aditi lightly flutters her feet on the spot accompanied by a classical score, mimicking a sound which can only remind one of a flock of birds flirtatiously flapping their wings in search of freedom. Many opulent gems throughout this piece, but it struggled to display a consistent lucid synergy as a result of being too ambitious.