A creative response to an eternal longing
- Dr. S.D. Desai
e-mail: sureshmrudula@gmail.com
Photos: Dr. Harsh Shah

February 22, 2017

The kinship Sanjukta Sinha portrays in the three-unit KIN, followed by Bells, presented on Day Two of IceCraft’s Classical Dance Festival is fostered by an inner urge at two levels, both intensely felt - one is the personal one, of an artist, a dancer in this case; the other is a collectively shared one, of a modern woman in the present case. The youngest of guru Kumudini Lakhia’s disciples at the festival, Sanjukta has accepted the challenge of focussing on this theme in the abstract. Her endeavour, as has always been, is to give Kathak a contemporary edge that can be globally appreciated.

It has been interesting observing this young dancer constantly strengthening the roots and, at the same time, moving skyward in a way, spreading foliage. The more enriched the base, the more luxuriant the growth as a contemporary performing artist. With the guru’s dependable guidance and her own full dedication to her, in her formative years as an artist, and in the midst of national and international attention coming her way, she has been managing a balance between the two.

There is a response to a call from within for an ascent or an upward journey portrayed in the initial segment Illumine, choreographed by Miriam Peretz, a choreographer from Israel. The being within ardently desires to be one with the all-pervading light without. The resplendent white of the universal light and the flowing white of the dancer’s attire assume a metaphorical meaning. In meditative slow motion, in the invocation made with the hands fully outstretched, where the Kathak chakkars turn to whirls of a dervish and in the unassuming demeanour of the dancer, eyes turned inward, and when she kneels in supplication, the viewer perceives the worshipper’s soul seeking harmony with the universal light. All through Illumine, Shelley’s image of ‘white radiance of eternity’ keeps flashing through the mind.

To see the mundane physical human existence with its negative instincts and impulses, even if lying dormant in the subconscious, ‘staining the white radiance’ is appropriate and to try to develop and play up black against white is commendable. It is not, however, exactly a creative idea of choreographer Aakash Odedera, who has quite often been in beautiful visual conversations on stage with her earlier, to restrict her elegantly expressive movement and hide the very source of sparkle and glow on the pretty dancer’s visage with her hair, yet another source of feminine charm, her sensuality, here looking unwanted.  Such a talented artist himself, couldn’t Aakash have found other more agreeable ways to highlight the hidden dark forces holding down an onward journey?  Even with the handicap, Sanjukta brings into play all her power of expression to highlight the invisible tumult within.

With composure and elegance and expressive charm all her own, attired burnished red Sanjukta bloomed in the third climactic segment Incede in unmixed traditional Kathak, impeccably choreographed by Kumudini Lakhia. It seemed as she danced from end to end in measured abandon displaying the glowing luxuriance of Kathak virtuosity as though the Promethean light she had prayed for earlier was voluntarily granted to her by the gods. She remains linked to the theme of KIN. The lyricism of the tenderly rendered Kaise kate meri tere bina raina... finds a visual translation as tender. The longing expressed is the eternal longing of the soul to be one with the universe.

The concluding group dance Bells, choreographed by Sanjukta, was added to KIN for the festival. The group led by Rupanshi had teenagers Krutika, Mihika and Manasi as dancers and Sanjukta joined them later in a celebratory formation.  Group formations in Kathak in Kadamb’s recognizable tradition were delightful and the symbolic varad hast in the beginning and at the end seemed to suggest that all that was sought was gladly given.

Music and lights in KIN remain integral to the varying moods evoked. In Bells, the ringing sounds keep reverberating lightly, to which the young dancers respond. Their Kathak movement giving a feel of spontaneity under the art direction of Kumudini Lakhia corresponds to the inner awakening, lit up as it were with tiny earthen lamps.

Dr. SD Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts Critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti,  Nartanam and Attendance. He guest-edited Attendance 2013 Special Issue. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer.