to dye for: An Ode to Indigo
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.
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
dancers at rehearsal
dancers at rehearsal
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
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.