Tuesday, February 12, 2008

All come together in a new form in ''Savitri''

DANCE REVIEW; Modern Currents in the Sensuous Flow of Indian Traditions
The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble refreshingly does not describe what it does as new or fusion Indian traditional dance. But Surupa Sen's ''Sri: In Search of the Goddess,'' performed by the Nrityagram troupe on Sunday night at Symphony Space, was as impressive an integration of the new and the old as any of the much-vaunted fusion programs performed here recently by British-based Indian modern-dance choreographers.
The six young women in the group trained and developed as a company at Protima Bedi's Nrityagram dance village near Bangalore. They emphasize the sensuous flow of the Odissi form of traditional Indian dance over its sharp, almost percussive moves and gestures, combining the two in performing that is unusually accessible. The dancers' radiance and youthful feminine sweetness color everything they do. And yet they communicated emotional states with an unexpected fierceness and power in ''Sri Savitri,'' the opening dance of the program.
Ms. Sen has had a solid exposure to the Western dance styles of choreographers including Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Maggie Sietsma and Isadora Duncan.
All come together in a new form in ''Savitri,'' inspired by Sri Aurobindo's epic poem of the same name. Each section -- ''Night,'' ''Fire'' and to a lesser extent ''Death'' -- is a stark yet intense pure distillation of its theme. The dancers move for the most part in isolation from one another, forming a spacious larger pattern. They draw near or touch to electric effect.
Three more traditional dances are performed in the second half. Best of these was ''Srimati,'' performed by Ms. Sen and Bijayini Satpathy. Described as a depiction of the two stages of youth and womanhood, the duet was most interesting in its abstract qualities. There were complex, intricate rhythmic shifts to enjoy in dance that was as assertive as it was languid.
The program was completed by ''Srimayi,'' performed by Ms. Sen, and ''Sridevi,'' performed by Ayona Bhaduri, Priyambada Pattanaik, Pavithra Reddy, Ms. Satpathy and Ms. Sen. The music was performed live by Navin Kumar Mishra (sitar), Balaram Chand (violin), Srinibas Satapathy (flute), Kshemanidhi Pradhan (percussion) and the singer Rajendra Kumar Swain. Nrityagram will end its American tour next Thursday at the Rich Forum in Stamford, Conn.

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