On a night that was full of expectations for the Indian hopefuls at the Oscars, the world of Indian dance was holding its own ceremony of sorts. At the QEH on London’s South Bank, the South Asian Dance Faculty was celebrating the tenth anniversary of bharatanatyam and kathak becoming part of ISTD, by presenting in performance ‘A’ graded dance students drawn nationwide. This was the first time that fifteen organisations, teachers and dance companies had united to present on the capital’s stage.
The performance provided great entertainment, a word often overlooked in the worthy sceptre of classical music and dance. It is not to suggest that the show was light and frothy. There were moments of technical wizardry: complex jattis executed with great speed, moments of spiritual surrender, convincing abhinaya, some excellent music composition and diversity of age level and elements.
The eleven student pieces were augmented by two professional presentations: Ekatra (choreography by Kumudini Lakhia) produced by Akademi and Quick the Place choreography prize winner scooped by Nina Rajarani’s Srishti Dance Creations, with its iconic image of men-in-suits executing some top-notch jattis to the breathtaking score of Yadavan and accompaniment on flute and violin to die for.
Among the student pieces the most successful were those specially choreographed for groups: Chitralekha Bolar’s Sangama which brought together the two divergent styles but not for that reason alone. The manner in which adavus were used as material for composition so that at a leisurely pace the beauty of the poses in young bodies could be enjoyed had much to do with the satisfying quality of the item. Also skillfully put together was the Thodya Mangalam in which a group of ten dancers changed formations, came on and off stage to perform both abhinaya sections and pacey tirmanams. At the professional end of the spectrum Akash Odera student of Nilima Devi shone in the opening presentation.
Techno tarana was a great example of what dance teachers over the year could achieve – especially commissioned music, costume design and a real play with the possibilities of covering the stage space.
A couple of the pieces suffered from students not yet ready, mostly suffering from poor posture and lack of strength in the shoulder and upper body area. The need for work on body conditioning was plainly evident in some groups.
The other lesson drawn was the importance of costumes in the presentation. The unity provided by dancers in white and gold or in the blue and pink pastels where costume design was a part of the overall gave a visual unity, whereas too many bright colours jangled for attention.
Future ISTD showcases can give a real boost to teachers to create ensemble pieces, which are more than solo items danced by a group. Indian dance misses out on such platforms as the Regional and National Youth Dance due to the solo nature of Indian classical dance. Many of us who attended Misrana would like to see this become an annual event in which choreographic surprises will be coveted by participants and audiences alike.