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Angika Dance Company - 'Bhakti'


by Thea Nerissa Barnes

March 22, 2005 -- Robin Howard Dance Theatre, London

Angika performed "Bhakti" at the Robin Howard Dance Theatre.  A new work created for five dancers exceptionally experienced in classical Bharata natyam dance. The concept, choreography, and artistic direction of "Bhakti" is by Mayuri Boonham and Subathra Subramaniam.

The work takes place in an open stage space with no wings and a grey floor. The floor with the black sidings is a perfect setting to emphasize ensemble formations and lighting states created by Aideen Malone. The beginning ensemble work employs turned out deep knee bends and lunges to the side while the dancers arranged in lines flowed forward. The opening dance phrase is composed of perhaps five gestures with some phrases resolving into tableau. There are harmonious, articulate dance phrases with hand gestures and arms that lead to the downstage corner of the stage.

There are several counterpoint phrases and multiple rhythmical occurrences in feet and spatial patterns that compliment the graded intensity of the music by MIDIval PunditZ. The musical accompaniment by MIDIval PunditZ with its contemporary club mixes and classical Indian music layered the performance landscape with multiple contrapuntal sensibilities. The dancers, Noorjahan Begum, Suba Subramaniam, Gayathri Vadivelu, Mayuri Boonham and Anusha Kedhar, were reserved and so austere they seemed chilled even while dressed in orange, red and black and speeding across the stage with intricate foot work and leaps. Malone’s lighting design of sequences of white and blue added its layer of austerity that changed with warmth of amber light for a section of movement with jumps, turns and floor work.

As quoted from the program notes "Bhakti" means devotion, but what this says about the dance is embedded in the performance of the artists more so than the outward manifestation of movement, staging and lights. One believes from watching the dancers that an underlying devotion to some cherished sensibility is at work here. Angika do not fuse Bharatanatyam with other movement vocabularies or alter the sensibilities of their classical technique. Other than its presentation in contemporary dance theatre, Angika believe artistic licence through immergence and discipline in the form is the means to their successful dance making.

Angika’s contemporaneous practice of classical Bharatanatyam dance extends from its spiritual Hindu heritage. "Bhakti" is a contemporary dance because of its adjustment to the performance space but its absolute adherence to the movement vocabulary ie body design and associated harmony in composition of these designs gives this non literal presentation a particular quality. There are three modes of expression for Bharatanatyam: nritta being an arrangement of rhythmical and repetitive elements, natya being drama or story telling expressed through a language of gestures, poses and mime and nritya being a mixture of both nritta and natya. "Bhakti" seems overwhelmingly nritta even with its title that alludes to a metaphor. Bharatanatyam for this dance work is a theme from which the dancers have made variations. The dance though is still recognisably Bharatanatyam and exciting for its devotion to the code of classical Indian dance.


Edited by Staff.

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