On Stage: A Breath of India

Jane Vranish | CrossCurrents | March 6, 2012

I am here now

on a foundation


I am here now

on a bedrock


So began Srishti Dances of India/The Spilling Ink Project’s latest collaboration at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Both poetic and mystical, historic and contemporary, it was a beautiful blend of elements from the Indian culture.

Dance is the oldest of the art forms there — maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much. It has that inherent respect that Western dance, the youngest of the art forms here, does not necessarily always achieve.

Although its history was interrupted during the British reign, dance ultimately survived, but has always been aware of its antiquity. So there are only a few adventurous choreographers that try to push the envelope, so to speak, maybe because Indian artists cherish it so much.

We saw Nrityagram Dance Ensemble at the Pittsburgh Dance Council a decade ago, but the company divided its program in half — contemporary and classical. Srishti Dances of India (Sreyashi Dey and her exquisite twin daughters, Ishika and Kritika Rajan) and The Spilling Ink Project (Vijay Paliparty, Nalini Prakash and Kaushika Prakash) created Samudra: Churning Oceans, a mostly muted journey inward that bowed to the past while embracing the present.

Certainly the tradition was there in the use of Odissi (Srishti) and Bharatanatyam (Spilling Ink), but Samudra produced a wealth of connections that gave it a modern accent. Solos, duets and group formations were carefully intertwined and while the six dancers never left their individual styles, they seemed to compliment each other as never before.

That mostly had to do with the choreography, where the exchanges were frequent and laced with moving patterns that enticed and surprised the eye. Perhaps they were inspired by the projections behind them — sometimes text, sometimes a color wash, but often a diagram, maybe taken from a temple.

Girded by a harmonious choice of recorded music, the seven sections had relatable topics, including Identities, Avatars, Hands, Creation, Union, Om and Breathe. And while there was expert, occasionally intense footwork, this was a meditative piece, taking time to pause in luxurious sculptural poses.

I particularly enjoyed the Hands section, just because the hands play such an integral part in the dance and are rarely featured alone. The performers knelt in a circle and echoed each other as if their hands were floral blossoms in a breeze.

Ms. Dey and Nalini Prakash had an enviable contrast in their duet and Mr. Palaparty has gained a discreet confidence. But although a performance of quiet wealth, there was an excitement to be seen as Samudra seemed to probe our innermost thoughts.

I am artist

The future is still unfolding

     longing for new perspectives