Asian Music and Dance

Plurality of Abhinaya

Many art forms have expressed the notion of plurality by transcending boundaries and evolving with the times. In today’s world, ‘multiculturalism’, ‘global’ and ‘inclusion’ are buzz-words. Plurality of Abhinaya showed how classical art has the potential to evolve constantly through time and space, and it was refreshing to see North and South Indian classical dance forms come together on the same stage. Nilima Devi (kathak) and Anusha Subramanyam (bharatanatyam) used their styles to portray the eight different psychological stages of emotion of a woman in love, the Ashtha Nayika

The pieces were performed on poetry, playback music, live vocals and instrumental music (mridangam). Anusha danced to a twelfth-century Indian poem depicting the romantic union of Krishna and Radha. The angst in pining for the beloved was portrayed by Nilima Devi on a beautiful brajbhasha musical piece. In addition, the two artists performed some items together. One of them was on an English poem, You, by Carol Ann Duffy, which was expressively sung by opera singer Natasha Jouhl accompanied by a visual backdrop projection created by Vipul Sangoi. The concept of plurality found its fullest expression in these sequences, where the eastern dances came together with western music. We were reminded of how the core emotions of love have travelled through time and space as Nilima Devi enacted a modern woman enthralled reading her lover’s texts on her mobile. The background poem for this was read out by Anusha from her mobile on stage. 

Manorama Prasad did a brilliant job with the vocals, with Ramchandran on mridangam, incorporating North Indian ragas for the kathak dancer. However, as both are primarily Carnatic musicians, there were times when the music felt more in keeping with the bharatanatyam movements. Perhaps in future, the music scores could be more sensitive to both dance forms. In addition, the synchronisation between the dancers, the singer and the visual presentation could be worked on to minimise the interference of the styles of the different media with each other. The scrolling of the poem on the screen behind the dancers distracted the viewers from the performers. One suggestion would be for the opera singer to perform short clips of the poem alongside the visual presentation of the lyrics followed by its choreographic rendition by the dancers to instrumental music.

The post performance discussion provided insights into how the project came alive and how the interaction between the performers and some workshop participants in earlier sharing events had informed the development of the pieces.

Overall, this was a beautiful show assimilating yet respecting the differences of the two dance forms. The future for such inspirational collaborative works looks promising.

Plurality of Abhinaya was hosted at Dance4 in Nottingham as part of Sunday Supplement. The project was produced and supported by Dance4 in Nottingham with the support of ACE, Milapfest, Sampad, the Asian Legal Advice Service and several anonymous art lovers.



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