A dance to dye for: An Ode to Indigo  
- Arunima Gupta, Hyderabad 
December 8, 2006  

Set against the backdrop of the deep blue evening sky, arose a mass of indigo bodies to commemorate the memory of the dye that has made its presence felt through centuries and civilizations. 'Memory of Indigo,' a contemporary dance work was staged at 'The Sampradaya Vedika' (Shilparamam) for UNESCO and the Crafts Council of India's International Dye Symposium.  The Crafts Council had requested Anita Ratnam to select 6 dancers for the performance event. Anita and event chairperson Mrs. Usha Krishna worked towards hiring and managing this special event. 

Many of us have heard of Gandhiji's salt march or the Khadi Movement but not many have heard of the Indigo Revolution that played an important part in India's struggle for freedom from oppression. The work is a tribute to this struggle. 

dancers at rehearsal
dancers at rehearsal
The vision of Paris-based contemporary artist Nasser Soumi was given form by six principal dancers and seven junior dancers from across the country with choreographer Luigia Riva at the helm. The six seniors were a conglomeration of myriad dance backgrounds - Purnima Ashok from Shankarananda Kalakshetra (Hyderabad), Dayalakshmi from Arangham Dance Theatre (Chennai), Preeti Sundarajan, Ajay Vishwanathan and Anitha Santhanam from Shiri Dance Company (Bangalore), and Arunima Gupta, a Navanrutya dancer associated with dancer Ananda Shankar Jayant. The seven young dancers were the budding talent from Shankarananda Kalakshetra. 
the performance
the finale
Soumiís concept was a poem-in-dance breaking the stereotype machinery of the narrative. The performance unfolded in three abstract scenes, each painting a different picture with indigo. The first scene had the five dancers cocooned in pieces of indigo fabric spread across the space of a disc shaped sloping stage with a flight of stairs at its centre. Slowly the mass of indigo bodies wormed out and warmed up to the mystical music of the flute, soon the deep sound of the drums joined in and wove magic with the dancers swaying and swirling the indigo fabric. As the music reached its crescendo, the masses of the blue (cloth) were tossed up to be one with the colour of the sky above. 

The beauty of the second scene lay in its Indianness. Here the dancers cascaded down the majestic blue stairway in the most graceful manner. Once on stage, they wove interesting patterns of indigo with the sole male dancer in the centre (which is so much reminiscent of our own Raasleela). A huge white fabric with a stream of indigo running across (accompanied by streaks of mesmerizing light effects) created an enchanting landscape in the final scene. The dancers beneath the huge canopy, who emerged on to the stage like snow-capes, soon morphed into a willowy wave, then to a dragon like gait and later into a tumbling river (in which a few dancers took a plunge). The final spectacle of the indigo-white drape ascending the stairway like a bridal veil was breathtaking. 

the entire troupe along with the Minister for tourism

At a few places, the choreography required some detailed work and more synchronization.  Nonetheless the show was a visual treat - it indeed did demand a great deal of flexibility and finesse on part of the dancers to manipulate fifty yards of fabric on an angular stage. Bravo! The creation would not have been what it was but for the soulful music rendered by the talented flautist, vocalists and percussionists of Isha Foundation. To sum up, 'Memory of Indigo' was undoubtedly memorable and stirred up the deep- blue depths of the audience's souls.