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Aparna Sindhoor Dance Production, A Story And A Song Captivates


07/23/2007

Aparna Sindhoor combines folk tales with traditional Bharatnatyam in her latest production, A Story and a Song, to create an elegant and captivating performance at the Boston University Dance Theater. Her mission is to spread the stories of women from different cultures, highlighting their similar experiences. To this end, she draws from her own heritage with a Kannada folktale, a Native American creation myth, and her own story, A Flowering Tree, created specifically for this production from various stories told by women. While her production is sure to raise questions among traditionalists of Bharatnatyam, she pushes the boundaries in a way that allows expansion of the art form without deserting it altogether.

Sindhoor uses a story within a story structure, setting herself up as the narrator of A Flowering Tree. Her fellow dancers, Anil Kumar Sukumara Pillai and Pratheesh Shivandan, listen to the story, and as she becomes the main character in her own narration, they embellish and support her own creative dance narration. She tells the tale of a woman who can turn into a flowering tree, and while this allows her to marry a prince, it also causes her trouble when other people see her ability and she becomes stuck in a half-woman, half-tree shape. The whole story symbolizes the many roles that every woman must play in the course of her lifetime, and the representation is clear.

While the storytelling makes the production more accessible to an audience unfamiliar with Bharatnatyam, it is also Sindhoor's weakness – the central story, A Flowering Tree, lacks drama, and it is difficult to figure out how the creation story of the Divine Mother fits into the whole piece. While it is clear that she has a strong environmental and feminist message, the message could be made more powerful if she had streamlined the main story and allowed it to appeal to a broad audience instead of attempting to incorporate other stories from other cultures for a wider appeal.  

The visual effects, the music, and the occasional glimpses of humor (Sindhoor begins the production warning the audience that they must spread the story, or they will be cursed with seven years of bad sex) make her production well worth watching however. Her movements are innovative, the most noticeable being emulating a trapeze artist with scarves suspended from the ceiling, and evoking the tree image central to her story. Using elements of Kalarippyattu, the martial arts form from Kerala, also adds spice to the dancing. The music, the recorded part of which is composed by the guitarist Prasanna, combines the traditional and the contemporary, tying the production together. Sindhoor also sings onstage in Kannada, a touch that personalizes and grounds the production in its stories' roots in India.

A Story and a Song is playing at the Boston University Dance Theater on July 27 and 28 at 8 pm.




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