Asian Music and Dance


Choreographed by the dancing duo Nirupama and Rajendra, Abhinava dance company presented Kathakitathom, a word which the audience got to repeat and pronounce correctly as part of the joyful interaction between the artists and the viewers in the final act of the performance. Kathakitathom is a journey through katha (narrative) and kitathom (abstract dance) to experience nirvana – the ultimate state of bliss. The journey comprised various items aiming predominantly to evoke the rasas of shringara (romance) and veer (valour). Fusing the movement vocabulary of kathak, bharatanatyam and the Natya Shastra- the fountainhead of all movement, the audience was presented with a mixed bag of some very powerful items together with others incorporating rather dated ideas.

It was actually after the interval that the performance so to speak really took off. Moving on from shringara to now focus on veer rasa, the kathak items displayed an enthusiasm and energy full of joie de vivre. The passion for dance of the whole company was in clear evidence in the execution of technique. The dancers are highly trained and they used their bodies effectively. The duets by Nirupama and Rajendra were particularly engaging and mesmerising. Their passion, speed, exuberance and vivid expression were breathtaking. Moreover the dancer Soma Shekhar, who played the young Abhimanyu in the story of Chakravyuha from the celebrated epic Mahabharata, deserves a special mention. The choreography of Abhimanyu was spellbinding and together with Shekhar’s dancing it had the power and excellence to stir the soul of the audience. 

In complete contrast, the dance drama Shakuntala, a play written by Kalidasa – the renowned sanskrit writer – sometime between 4th and 5th century A.D. unfortunately did not have the same effect.

Although the atmosphere of the era and locale was created well, the movements were rather simplistic, with props, mime and moves reminiscent of old Indian movies and somewhat passé. It was followed by a traditional thumri written by the poetess Mirabai, Ãli ré mere nainan baan padi  which focussed on vipralamba shringar (spirituality of love in separation). I believe that an opportunity to capture effectively the spirituality of the bhãva was missed. In showing Krishna hovering around the nayika continuously (although invisible to her), as she pines for him and opens up her heart to the idol of the deity placed on the stage, the spirit of the thumri was lost and it became another mini dance-drama. There was also an indiscriminate use of smoke on the stage throughout the show. Although in some items it created an evocative ambience, in others I could not see its relevance and found it distracting.

The few shortcomings were more than made up for by perfect harmony between brilliant dancing and music of the whole show. The soulful music by Praveen Rao was uplifting and calming at the same time. The finale -Kathakitathom was an exhilarating closure to the evening with movements, chants and sounds from the Natya Shasta evoked a spirit of ecstasy. The audience had the feel of being transported to another level, on our way to a successful journey to nirvana. 



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