Orchestra and lighting stole the show

Review Dance

ADVAITH

Bhaskar's Arts Academy 
University Cultural Centre Theatre 
Last Saturday 

As the audience streamed into the University Cultural Centre theatre, five young dancers were warming up and stretching on stage.

At one point, each dancer picked up a pair of traditional ankle bells and began to put them on. The dancers seemed to lack the concentration required for this longish preamble.

A video projection in the background presented aspects of two classical Indian dance forms in focus, namely Kathak and Bharatanatyam. It threatened to steer the evening into lecture demonstration mode, giving too much away with the literal and rambling explanation. When the dance finally began, it was a relief.

 Advaith, presented by Bhaskar's Arts Academy was choreographed by Santha Bhaskar and Pallavi Sharma. It hinged on the jeevatma's (individual self) desire for union with the paramatma (divine self), a Hindu concept that inspires dancers of both forms. The title of the production, which means "not two", also provided the conceptual base to explore intersections between the forms.

 The performance opened with the rhythmic Bud To Blossom with Arasukumari and Neewin Hershall providing impressive support through vocal percussion.

In Reverence by young Bharatanatyam dancer Periyachi Roshni was a graceful and intense offering to Lord Ganesha. Ampili Pradeep and Arasakumari's rich vocals blended superbly. Pleasant as it was, the solo Kathak offering that followed paled in comparison because of the dancer's static facial expressions.

In Overwhelming Love, Sharma presented a tender depiction of the heroine's yearning for her beloved in Kathak through her singing, abhinaya (dramatic expression) and movement.

Four dancers then represented the same idea through Bharatanatyam.

It was Dhana Bharathi who was truly captivating as the pining heroine. The video projection that displayed close-ups of each dancer's facial expressions became an unwelcome intrusion and accentuated the dancers' drawbacks.

Senior dancer Ambujah Thirunavukarasu brought to stage her maturity and versatility in the penultimate piece, titled Light & Dark. Her expressions were vivid and some editing would have benefited the piece.

T.V. Sajith rendered excellent violin accompaniment. The few striking chakkars (spins) that Sharma performed around Thirunavukarasu at the end left the audience wanting to see more Kathak.

The performance had its choreo- graphic moments and closed with a vibrant group Tarana/Thillana in which there was an attempt to project the idea of oneness through movements, costumes and music. However, the exploration seemed limited particularly by the young Kathak dancers' lack of experience.

 Given that the two dance forms were placed within a conceptual frame that alluded to unity, a deeper examination of the converging points would have done justice to the overarching theme.

By contrast, there was a seamless intermingling of the Hindustani and Carnatic genres, the musical forms that typically accompany Kathak and Bharatanatyam respectively. The nine-member orchestra and the lighting (by Krishnan Venkatesh) stole the show.  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Orchestra and lighting stole the show'. Print Edition | Subscribe