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A resilient instill of Psyche into Soma

Maanini - Expressions of Love

Amidst very pertinent cross cultural dialogues of bodies in traditional motion and their reactions to transition and change, it is reaffirming to examine classical Indian dance entrusting to and respond auspiciously to such ‘change’ than ever before! The statement, at the risk of being a bombastic one coming from an amateur, yet seeks a humble tone in the fact that it mirrors experience of watching classical dance in a global context in a continuous span. The most recent manifestation of this opinion comes from attending an animated choreographic marvel adopted into nine very diligent ‘bodies in motion’ of Bangalore.

Titled ‘Maanini – Expressions of Love’, Guru Kiran Subramanyam assimilated a rich body of tradition only to bind it into changed notions and formats, and the individual dancers from across different schools infused it through silted interpretations of their psyche and soma! Along the length and breadth of the presentation, a critical lens would allow for some amount of change for the sake of it as one characteristic of the choreography and difficult negotiation of some bodies, at some times to the changed presenting idiom.

‘Aarambh’, having been conceived and presented previously stood afresh in memory and for all its credit, it was epoch in the construct well before. Only this time, its dancers giving the multilayered effect and their liberal organization into a wholesome unit both personally and on the stage added a depth. The erstwhile ‘Alaripu’ stretched and circumscribed itself into emulating the entire theoretical and practical implication of ‘Angika abhinaya’. The dancers traversing lucidly between the gospel ‘Hastas, ‘Vinayogas’, ‘Stanakas’, ‘Bhedas’ and grouped ‘Mai adavaus’, ‘Mandi adavus’ pronounced heavy intention on the part of classical dance to give ‘change’ greater importance and impetus.

The pinnacle of the evening, as popularized much in advance, was ‘Maanini’ – the Purvi Kalyani Varnam metamorphosed into delineation of the ‘Ashtanayika avastha’ well into the strict structure and language of the Varnam. I reminisce Leela Venkataraman’s words here, from here book Tradition in Transition where she talks of change in classical dance as an inevitable part of tradition but cautions us on the importance of the direction that such change takes. Well, there was an important change here; rendering to the utmost essence of a literature that had already captured the various stages of a woman in love; the only gap that needed to be filled was a combination of an idea and its execution. Besides fringe supports in the form of stage, lighting and prop, handling of the ‘states of being’, intimacy on the part of dancers, histrionic expression suited to an ethereal effect succeeded in connecting basic human emotions in such natural connotations to the audience at large, a change that most often does not reach the desired effect.

Aranya Narain reveling as the ‘Swadeenapatika’ describing her man, Aparna Sastry in the jealous-sorrow ‘Vipralabha’ mode, Prathibha Ramaswamy doing the baleful ‘Khandita’, by alluring him off all ‘facilities’ he is used to, Matangi Prasan entrenched with a superlative bodily control in the ‘Virahotkantitha’, Rasika Kiran as the demur ‘Abhisarika’, Sneha Devanandan personifying the forever woman trait of adorning and waiting, ‘Vasakasajja’ especially with her very gracious walk back into the side screen, ‘Kalahantarita’ explored to fullest in Preethi Bharadwaj’s remorseful, suggestive yet powerful fall out were all so ingrained in their individualistic and powerful characterizations that the umpteen book definitions and colourful brush strokes of these nayikas came alive with a perfect harmony of the soul and body! The molding of Shivaranjini Harish and Shruti Gopal into the narrative thread did best to augment their innate strengths. With the exhaustion of the these Nayikas during the first half, even as one wondered the role of the latter half of the Varnam, the dancers playing the sakhis lifting up the main protoganist’s mood in the ‘Swaras’ was a very syntactic and welcome change. However questions like should the ‘Nayika avasthas’ have spilled to the second half too? Or was there a scare of monotony in the format? Was this a change to voluntarily change perceptions? Lingered on….

Thillana was a reflection of authority and ownership on the niche of ‘Laya’ carefully nurtured by Kiran Subramanayam in a very creditable tone. While it served well for all the prior description of cumulating mathematics of rhythm and geometry of space and patterns into classical dance, a na├»ve watcher like me was left baffled with the tension between excessive movement, similar movement and differenced movement on stage. Well, change has different dimensions and settles in slowly. Music ensemble stood apart characterized by only a steep ascent and not visibly calling for a changed outlook.
Maanini represented ‘change’ in an engrossed discussion with dance and its dancers, ‘changed’ choreographic scripting and ‘changing’ audience perceptions.
PS: I owe the use of words ‘Psyche’ and ‘Soma’ to mean soul and body respectively to a conversation with my professor who used them.