Asian Music and Dance

RUDRA – Emotive Flight

In the shadowy northern quarter of the majestic York Minster, bright lights beamed across a low stage onto an audience filled with anticipation. High expectations had been set for such collaboration. With contemporary kathak choreographer Sonia Sabri and acclaimed composer and musician Shri Sriram on the creative team, we were all looking forward to Rudra – a cutting-edge exploration of the powerful, impulsive and destructive nature of Lord Shiva.

Four dancers slowly entered the stage in flowing, contemporary costumes with complementary hues of blue, brown, red and orange. While the piercing, conch-like strains of Jesse Bannister’s alaap on saxophone drew us into the piece, a connection was beautifully established through wrists and hands with a sense of wonder. Soon the story began to unfold in a scene of playfulness, innocence and interaction with nature. The character of Kamadeva as a pixie-like cupid with a cheeky swagger was wonderfully portrayed by Lucy Haighton with Rati, the doting, innocent wife played by Nikki Bakolis.

Another poignant relationship was between Shiva and Parvati, by Alys North and Jyoti Uniyal. A mature, weighted interaction was held through exquisite abhinaya or ‘expression’ in the eyes as Shiva departed to carry out his meditation. Suddenly, with speed, intensity and accuracy Jyoti flew across the stage in a kathak solo depicting various aspects of Shiva in a ferocious tandav-like dance. A particularly stunning scene was of Shiva in meditation. Shri Sriram’s musical composition provided a heavy, beating pulse that was layered with rhythmic syllables whispered by percussionist RR Prathap like floating thoughts inside the mind. Slow, controlled movements were held with intense concentration by the dancers creating the calm before the storm to come. Alys North’s Shiva was one never seen before. With bone crunching jerking and twitching, a tense, grotesque, almost animalistic Shiva reacted in disturbance. Red hues and strobe lighting intensified the erupting violence that built in Shiva’s anger as Rati and Kamadeva continued to annoy him in their innocent love-play. Soon Kamadeva noticed Shiva’s looming gaze and a duel took off between the two opposite energies of slow and quick, serious and provocative. With climactic accompaniment by RR Prathap on the mridangam drum, Kamadeva was thrown around by Shiva’s invisible force with breath-taking possessed and arrested movements and died a dramatic death. After Rati re-enters and breaks down in grief finding her husband has been turned to dust, Parvati consoles her and both look to Shiva in shock and awe, Shiva all the while completely infused with a majestic and almost arrogant energy coursing through his limbs. In an act of blessing, Shiva brings Kamadeva back to life and Lucy sparkles in an energetic contemporary solo.

A celebration of life concluded the journey in a spectacular unison sequence where Sonia’s choreographic eye truly came to the fore. Characteristic isolation of limbs that led into drops and falls of weight were executed with sharp precision and passion by all dancers. A moving musical outro closed the evening that left the heavenly vocals of Kartik Ragunathan lingering in the air. With deep shades of emotion, swift movements and powerful music, Rudra took us on a mesmerizing journey that makes one wish the art of performance weren’t so ephemeral. One is glad to know that such a high-quality production with an incredibly talented team will be touring many sites around Yorkshire in the Spring of 2014.



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