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The Dark Lord: Lament of the Poetess of Love
- Indu S.V.
Photos: V.B. Suresh

July 18, 2017

Raadha Kalpa Dance Company premièred their new production The Dark Lord on 14th July at Guru Nanak Bhavan, Bangalore. Conceptualized and choreographed by dancer Rukmini Vijayakumar, this was a dance theater experience of the journey of the many seekers of Lord Krishna. The story was unique in that it beautifully wove together the struggles, insanity and surrender of the lovers of Krishna. Their common thread of seeking and absolute surrender found its voice through the life story of Meerabai, the mystic poetess and Bhakti saint of the 16th century.

The vocabulary used was Bharatanatyam including karanas but did not confine itself to the widely prescribed formats of presentation or treatment. The refreshing choreography used adavus, lines and postures but in unique sequences and formations. Nritta sequences like a Mallari and Thillana, swara passages and sollukattus, excerpts from ashtapadi are examples of traditional repertoire elements that were used, to lend themselves to the bigger picture of the progression of story line rather than as individual pieces. Powerful and poignant images created from the lives of these seekers left a lasting impact on the audience. Suggestive props like Andal’s garland and the replica of the famous uruli of Guruvayur Krishna temple containing kunnikkuru (rosary pea seeds) invoked the spirit of the dark lord himself.

The life of Meerabai as a child, her love at first sight for the Krishna idol, her bond with the fascinating stories of the butter thief prankster Krishna and her marriage to Rana, moved on to the life of adult Meera who continued her devotional journey with Krishna, much to the contempt of her in-laws who persecuted her. The smooth life of Meera thus became turbulent, but her devotional love only got intensified by each passing day.

The choreography brought out these changing phases of her life effectively, not just with the innovative use of movement dynamics but also with judicious use of props (including swing, lanterns), sets and lights. The sets were thoughtfully designed to create different levels on stage. This was intelligently used to enhance the story telling by creating appropriate visuals. For instance, little Meera’s dream about various Krishna tales, the depiction of passing of time etc. made use of these spatial distinctions provided by the set. Entries and exits executed from different levels and wings made the experience realistic. One could see similes and metaphors in the choreography wherever appropriate. Intense moments including the liberation of Meerabai were portrayed by suggestive imagery thus making it visual poetry indeed.

All the dancers were well coordinated and did complete justice to the choreographer’s vision. Soul stirring music by Dr. Rajkumari Bharathi provided ample support to the production that had minimal use of lyrics and dialogues. Sound design was by Sai Shravanam, set design by Hariprasad Shetty and light design by Pritham Kumar. This production succeeded in bringing out the philosophy and spirit of the story of Meerabai. As the protagonist found liberation by rising above the social and family conventions, The Dark Lord transcended the boundaries of existing patterns of choreography to transform into an experience of artistic brilliance.

Indu S.V. is a Bharatanatyam dancer and is on the faculty for Bharatanatyam at Indiranagar Sangeet Sabha in Bangalore.