Vivartana: Dance transforms
- Padma Jayaraj
Photos: Sivan Venkitangu
November 9, 2017
'Vivartana' (Dance transforms) is the text and script of Rama Vaidyanathan and her group's presentation. Powered and orchestrated by rhythm, rooted in nritta, the recital sculpts flashing scenes on stage to annotate and establish the philosophy of a dancer.
"Dance transforms my pulse to pace with rhythm
And I become one with rhythm..."
The eight line verse written by Rama Vaidyanathan is set into 4 parts: Pratikriya, Samyoga, Nimagna, Pratibodhana, the stages of a dancer's journey. And the recital culminates with the maxim expounded in Abhinaya Darpana, a primary treatise on Indian dance. On the darkened stage, light falls on the mridangam and lights up the mridangist... Rhythm resounds; rhythm initiates movements. Two dancers prop up as if awakened by the magic of rhythm and lo, dance is born. Music and movements synchronize. Step by step, nritta grows in magnitude into a scintillating performance as four dancers sculpt the backdrop for dramatics of the interpreter. The choreography weaves an animated realm: birds twitter, peacocks dance; crawling is dance while snakes literally dance; rhythmic music tickles movements and Nature dance; Siva dance; Ananda Natanam, in Bharatanatyam format, a brilliant display of Rama Vaidyanathan's forte.
Pratikriya shows how dance responds. The dance liberates the dancer from the shackles of stillness. And dance creates magic and beauty, its aesthetic dimension in response to rhythmic beats. The next stage in the ecstatic journey is Samyoga, for dance merges. The stage is aflame in sparkling of nritta. The dancer merges in Siva, the archetypal dancer. And the entire universe dances: Ananda Tandava. Samyoga alters the visual physical space around the dancer: the dance becomes the dancer, the dancer the dance.
"I transform from copper to gold. I become a manifestation of his Ananda Tandava, where everything that moves in this universe, is a harmonious beautiful dance. He dances, the world dances, I dance, and we all become one. Samyoga."
A fusion of other dance forms highlight Nimagna (Dance immerses). The dance recital takes us through mystical India down the centuries. The mysticism of Rumi (the 13th century Persian mystic) is cast in sufi dance. The costume and the slow whirling dance design is a contrast to Bharatanatyam, but merges beautifully with the text and the spirit of the dance. "Dance is not only about feeling light like a falling leaf; it is about tearing your heart out to become one with the Supreme. It is about rising out of your body to be suspended between the two worlds," the sufi dancer relives Rumi on the stage.
"I will wear bells and dance to celebrate my love for Krishna." It is Meera, in folk idiom, immersed in a love that surpasses everything. Lalleswari, the 14th century Kashmiri Tantric, springs up.... "I learnt to withdraw my gaze from without, to look within....And when I realized the truth I shed my clothes, and began to dance naked." However, the dancer enveloped in black costume fails to convey the secrecy of the Tantric. Muthuswamy Dikshitar, the 19th century poet, rounds off the theme. The palanquin bearers of a temple procession dance in ecstasy which mirrors the dance of Siva himself: the group dissolves into a Bharatanatyam nritta in a dazzling performance.
Pratibodhana (Dance awakens) displays the spiritual dimension. The saint poet Narsinh Mehta (15th century Gujarati poet) is immersed in a vision. The vision materializes as the colorful Rasalila, the epitome of the divine love repeated through centuries in mystical India: the love between Krishna and the gopikas. The ultimate truth has awakened the poet's sensibilities, ever since he started writing extensively about the love that transpired between Krishna and the Gopis. "Look at that beautiful sight in Brindavan by the banks of the river Yamuna. Krishna wearing a dancer's clothes enchants the women who come running to flock around him. He stands there in all his glory and the women embrace him like a creeper would embrace a tree... And I, Narsi, watch this stunning sight, astounded and thunderstruck."
What began with the physical culminates in the spiritual. The dance recital ends with an epigram on Rasa Bhava.
"Where the hand goes, the eyes go
Where the eyes go, the mind goes
Where the mind goes, there is expression
And where there is expression, emotion is evoked..."
- Nandikeswara in Abhinaya Darpana
Rama Vaidyanathan who had conceived, scripted and choreographed the dance production, presents an innovative piece, aesthetically satisfying. As a group item each of her four disciples play major roles and are inseparable in a unifying design. Credit goes to each of her team: Keerthana Ravi, Shubhamani Chandrasekhar, Kavya Ganesh, Lakshmi Chakyar.
The dazzling display on stage was held together by strands unseen, by a supporting team: Music composed for lyrics in Sanskrit, Tamil, Rumi's verses, Kashmiri Tantric poet and Dikshitar are by different musicians, although rendered by Ranita De, Reshika Shivakumar. Other credits include: percussion by Sumod Sreedharan, Satish Krishnamurthy, Sannidhi Vaidyanathan;
flute by Rajat Prasanna, sarangi by Ghulam Ali, violin by Raghavendra Prasad. Light design is by Deepa Dharmadhikari.
Vivartana was staged at Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Hall, Thrissur, on the occasion of Kerala Piravi day on November 1, 2017 hosted by SiLa Centre for Performing Arts, Thrissur.
Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer on the arts and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com