Sleep Inducing  
by Ananda Shankar Jayant, Hyderabad 
March 15, 2004   

I went to the contemporary dance show, by Preeti Vasudevan, with a lot of expectations, but came back sorely disappointed. 

Verbosity and jargon with no reflection in the dance. The announcements before the dance had no correlation with what followed. It seemed a putting together of basic contemporary dance movements, with no flow at all. 

The second piece based on a 15th century Telugu poem, left much to be desired. The costume worn by the dancer was a straight lift from calendar art, of a bathing beauty…an itsy blouse, wispy dhoti worn above the knee and below the belly button, made interesting eye candy, but did little else to convey or connote anything else…except titillate maybe??!! The movements showing a woman getting dressed (I presume depicting a Vasakasajjika nayika) were exaggerated and seemed like mockery. 

The unravelling dhoti, hastily tucked in every time, added to the vulgarity.

The last piece about 'dead meeting the living dead' was insipid and very sleep inducing. It was too lengthy and did not make any headway in terms of movement, story line or content. It had dancers running around the stage, presumably depicting the meeting of the "living dead and the Dead with a time traveler” but did not carry the thought through, and remained just at the basic level of attempting to tell a story but failing.  

While the auditorium was about half full, thanks to the elaborate advance publicity, and the enterprising skills of the event managers, most left after the first half an hour, saying that the whole programme went over their heads!! Dancers and art organisers in the audience felt similarly. There was no correlation with word and movement at all. Sure contemporary art is intensely personal, it still has to make sense to an intelligent audience else what is the purpose of showcasing such art!!?? 

There seems to be an unhealthy trend among newspapers and event managers, to pump up the decibels, in terms of previews and reviews, as soon as the word NRI is heard, without checking on the level of the dancer. For a similar or much more renowned or talented artiste the reaction is at best lukewarm! 

A case of the legacy of foreign rule I guess, which says that anything from across the seven seas is wonderful. 

Ananda Shankar Jayant is a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi exponent, and artistic director of Shankarananda Kalakshetra, Hyderabad.