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Shilpa Nrityam – The Dance of the Sculpture

Ranjani Saigal

The ideal dancer is often etched in the mind of the sculptors, but it was rare to see a dancer accent the stage with sculptures of his own creations made of recycled materials while presenting his understandings of the origins of human internal energies through the medium of Bharatanatyam.

On Thursday May 16, 2002 Sudarshan Belasare, a student at the Massachusetts College of Art presented Shlipa Nrityam. It was a spell binding presentation that threw light on the concepts of “Hari”, “Shiva” and “Shakti”.

Sudarshan divided the presentation into three parts. It began with a piece called “Hari:Creation”. A lotus sculpture created by Sudarshan was the backdrop for the presentation. “The lotus has myriad symbolisms ranging from the shape of the petals like those of the eyes of the beautiful “Lotus-eyes-Lord” (Vanajaksha) to the inner conscious of the mundane, awaiting the radiance of Sun, a metaphor for the Supreme Brahman (The Absolute Turth) to bloom,” says Sudarshan. In this piece he used just the pallavi of a composition by Prof. T.R. Subramaniam – "Vanajaksha Ninnne Nammitti" in ragam Behag.

The second part of the presentation was “Shiva:Dissolution”. The piece represented the Dance of Bliss the Ananda – Tandava. This was partially set to the well known Padam Natanam Adinar. A lovely Viruttam describing the beauty of Lord Shiva was presented. The lines “Oru padam edduthu ada maru padam midhithadda - one foot gently uplifts (the good) while the other stamps (out evil)” beautifully describes the balance between good and evil in the dance of Shiva. The Padam, Natanam Adinar, is a piece that has been performed by almost every dancer. Yet Geeta Chandran's choreography presented by Sudarshan was unique.

The grand finale was called Shakti, This piece was set to “Omkaaraakaarini” in the Ragam Lavangi rendered by Dr. Balamurali Krishna. ”Shakti is a manifestation of the life force in matter” says Sudarshan. “Shakti is Prakriti or nature. In our frenzy to conquer and gain power , we abuse the Mother which results in universal destruction and devaluation of nature and hence ourselves.” Sudharshan made an interesting entry hidden behind a beautiful sculpture representing the Mother. The use of soil instead of flowers as an offering for the Goddess brought a unique touch to the presentation.

Sudarshan made very creative use of music. He used pre-recorded music interspersed with rendition of Jathis using just the cymbals (Talam). The sancharis – (different movements for the same verse) was very creative. His Jathis were strong and clean. His Nritta was perfect. The choreography was well thought out and creative. A lot of research had gone into the presentation.

From the response of the audience during the question answer session it was clear that Sudarshan had reached out to them and they were very excited about the presentation. Congratulations to Sudarshan on a job well done, and to Judy Haberl , his sculpture teacher at the Mass College of Art who encouraged him to take on this difficult project and provided suitable guidance. This will serve as an inspiration to other students as they try to find a way to bring their Indian identity and heritage into their everyday activities.

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