of Earth, Body and Sky
Sinuous, supple, and all of sixteen, she leaps, she bends, she contorts, she slithers, she flies. A sizzling bundle of molten flesh, she spans the ground and the skies in a breathtaking sweep. As Esha Sharvani storms the Indian dance scene with an unconscious electric sensuality, she leaves her audiences gasping. Here is a vital versatility that can only be found in youth. She raises gymnastics to sheer art. At last, a new star is born on the Indo-Australian firmament who – given a fair chance – may well mature to become an international sensation.
So what if the fuddy – duddies grate their gums and cry foul? Dance lovers first got a taste of Esha last year when she appeared in her dancer – choreographer mother Daksha Sheth’s work, ‘Sarpagati’. If hardened dance buffs reserved their applause then, last week they were shamed into irrelevance when the Natya Ballet Center presented her in ‘Bhukhamb – The Circus of Earth and Sky’ over 2 consecutive evenings in Delhi.
Comfortably cocooned in staid inertia, the dance caucus had first gone into shocked denial. Now, the second time around, they can only carp: “ It may be amazing acrobatics, but where is the dance?” But the Sheth - Devisarro family is unperturbed. “ We want to expand not only the confines of dance but also the public appeal of artistic performance,” says Devisarro. At a volatile Indo-German dance interface in Mumbai last month, young Esha silenced her sexagenarian critics with a terse remark, “ My performance is the future of dance, not its late lamented past”.
Out of the mouths of babes? Maybe. But all future has a present and all present a past. The present is the Daksha Sheth Dance Company situated on the banks of Vellayani Lake, some 10 km from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The home-studio-school, set amidst 100 coconut, mango and mahogany trees, was till recently an island of idyll, devoid of rudimentary civilisational amenities. “After five years,” Daksha informs, “we just got electricity last week.”
It has taken Daksha and Devisarro two decades of eclecticism to evolve a vocabulary which attempts to address contemporaneity in the “de-culturalised” language of mind - body movement. It is not a pretty or ethnic embrace of self-conscious modernity as done by the preceding generation. In fact it might well be rejected by the mandarins of the western festivals circuit too as they would not find it Indian enough.
But then only those who dare to challenge the status quo can dream of charting unknown paths. Esha is a child of those dreams.
Today’ dated April 9, 2001).