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The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble - An Impressive Blend Of Old And New

Ranjani Saigal

The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble under the direction of artistic director Surupa Sen presented a collection of dances in the Odissi style at the Zero Arrow Theater on the weekend of April 29th.  Sen infused the Odissi numbers with ideas from western group choreography to bring a breath of freshness to a presentation that was essentially classical. Interesting group choreography ideas and an emphasis on clean movements succeeded in enhancing and bringing out the subtle nuances of the traditional presentation of Odissi.

The presentation began with Namskriti or invocation where the dancers offered their prayer to Lord Ganesha. This was followed by Aakriti – a pure dance number that explored the various dimensions of Odissi’s abstract and geometric vocabulary. In a deviation from tradition,  Sen did not draw her abhinaya piece from Geeta Govindam but rather chose a Oriya poem Murali Paani to describe the Nayika’s love for Krishna. After the intermission, Shiva-Asktakam was presented. The number brought out the essence of Shiva as the cosmic dancer. His varied forms as Bhairava, as the Medicant and the perfect lover to his consort Parvathi were perfectly represented. The presentation ended with Nirvitti which was described as a final emancipation with its root in the Tantric and tribal cultures. Exploring patterns and forms found in Yantra (geometric representation of deities) like those of the 64 yoginis, it pays obeisance to the tribal and other indigenous cultural expressions that govern Odissi.

The presentation was beautiful. The poses were perfect as was the group presentation which was in perfect unison. The line choreographies used were very creative. Sen used a very interesting idea often seen in musical symphonies where all the dancers except one performed movements in unison in the background while one dancer went out on exploring. The two sets were synchronized beautifully to create a symphony of movements.

Sen should be congratulated on making a beautiful and original creation. Pandit Rghunath Panigrahi’s music was melodious and added the right mood to the piece. While the interesting ideas made a wonderful new creation, the piece became essentially western with the chorographer superseding the creativity of the individual. Thus it was no longer the individual trying to explore Nirtta and Abinaya but rather Sen trying to tell her story. The performance also deviated from the traditional Abhinaya where the facial expressions are more exaggerated.

The lighting and stage effects by Lynne Fernandez were spectacular. The costumes were beautiful and enhanced the aesthetics of the presentation.

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