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London soaks in the uniqueness of India
Tad Bharatham! That! Is India!
- Anvi
Photos copyright: The Bhavan, London

April 23, 2019

Over the weekend of Friday 12th April and Sunday 14th April, London witnessed the creativity and choreographic finesse of Bangalore based dance duo Nirupama and Rajendra at The Bhavan, London. Along with 8 other dancers from their Abhinava Dance Company, they presented their dance production 'Tad Bharatham! That! Is India!'

The evening opened with a Ganesha Vandana performed by the entire team. Clad in white, the choreography had many intelligent moments which induced applause, with the final moment pulling all the dancers into a circle in the centre patterned with their raised arms. This was followed with an introduction by Nirupama into various aspects of India that the audience could expect to witness. Envisaged as a conversation between the Himalayas at the Northern edge and the ocean in the Southern tip, the passion and the reverence for their motherland was evident from the very first moment on stage. With a duet infused with dialogues, Rajendra and Nirupama gave life to these two elements from the opposite ends of the stage, lending perspective into the space.

The team then proceeded to show moments from the daily life of Indians, giving a glimpse into the routines of the common man. Simple moments -offering prayers to the Sun God at dawn; the ritual of 'Sandhyavandana' performed by young men; serving lunch on plantain leaves; women gathering to deck themselves up - were all put together with much aplomb and conviction.

The production sought to cover the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent through episodes and happenings specific to each place. The epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha were used to show the memories that the land holds from the North to the South and East to West respectively. During the Mahabharatha sequence, the dancers took us to the 13th day of the war at Kurukshetra. The character of Abhimanyu brought out a robust energy on to the stage as he navigated through the Chakravyuha. The imagery of the army marching, circling and creating blockages was spellbinding.

Nirupama and Rajendra captivated us with their simultaneous individuality and cohesiveness on stage as they portrayed a heart-warming and poetic scene from the Ramayana. Rama and Sita travel on the Pushpaka Vimana on their way back from Lanka to their kingdom. On the way, Sita recollects her plight of being kidnapped and how she had dropped her jewels so that Rama could trace her. Their joy when Rama shows her that he had indeed collected her jewels which had eventually led him to her was a moment of delicate emotiveness and subtle joy. As they near their home, their sweet romantic conversations gradually evolve into a quivering joy at the thought of reuniting with their family, gracefully emoted.

Another scene which stood out was one from Kalidasa's 'Abhignana Shakunthalam' - that of Shakunthala being chased by the bee and the king Dushyantha coming to her rescue. Steering away from the usual romantic approach to the scene, the choreography took on a light-hearted, playful perspective. Shakunthala chides Dushyantha that it is not a mark of valour or even permissible to hunt in that part of the forest. The duo then continued to converse and share pleasant moments of synchronised asynchronicity between them which elicited smiles. The group choreography had some memorable punctuations. The envisioning of a dance concert with a dancer surrounded by instrumentalists and later being congratulated by her friends was delightful, as was the chatter between the honeybee and the flowers in the Shakunthala scene.

'Madanotsava' was a month-long festival celebrated during the reign of Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Kingdom. The London audience was given a glimpse of it in the finale. After the celebration of the spirit of India through the various rasas of shringara, hasya, veera etc throughout the production, it was the fitting finale celebrating the spirit of spring, joy and abundance with movements recreated from sculptures.

One of the trademarks of Abhinava is their stunning visual element coupled with their spectacular choreography. This production as well featured visually stunning costumes, minimal yet effective props, the usage of multimedia projection (designed by Vinod Gowda) and effective lighting. For those yet unfamiliar with their style - the duo is trained in Kathak, Bharatanatyam and in Karanas, which they bring together seamlessly in their compositions. In this production, the audience got to see the art of the Karanas embedded into the technique of Kathak. The confidence of the dancers on stage as they dialogued with each other through movements was noteworthy. The evening was a celebration of grace, imagination and technical hold. London welcomed the unique imaginative vision of Abhinava Dance Company led by Nirupama and Rajendra with houseful shows, and a responsive audience cheered on during their best artistic moments.

The credits include script by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh, music by Praveen D Rao, and visuals by Vinod Gowda. The dancers were Neha Seshadrinath, Rohini Prabhath, Kinga Malec, Ramyashree, Ashwin J Prabhath, Naveen R Hegde, Shreya P Vathsa, Vishruthi Acharya.

Anvi is a Bharatanatyam dancer, visual artist, writer, actress/filmmaker from Bangalore, based in London on an exceptional Talent Endorsement by Arts Council England. She is the founder and director of Mid Light Productions, an independent film company specifically set up to create dance and art films.