A river-treat in the blazing summer


Aswathy Rajan
UGC Research Fellow, Dept. of Dance,
S.N.School for Performing Arts and Mass communication
University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad.

A brief review on the Dance performance ‘Nadi’ staged as part of the Lasya Dance Festival at the Regional Theatre, Thrissur last week. This exceptional work is done by Spanda Dance Company of legendary dancer Smt. Leela Samson. It was a unique representation of poems about river written in six Indian languages. The much appealing music of this production has done in different music genres according to the nativity and culture of the poems.      


As if the touch of a small snowy stream to the broken edges of summer’s lives, ‘Nadi’ soothed hearts of the Rasikas of Thrissur with the performers’ entry from the down left domain of the stage. This Ode to river commenced with the posturing of the subtle waves of the river, making four dancer’s body into one compendium of meaning. Like the blossoming of a new dawn, the light setting enriched the coming down of the ‘Nadi’ on stage. And no doubt the pleasure of its fresh arrival must have reminded the Malayali-viewers of the ‘guest’ rain on a summer’s eve.    

The flesh and blood of this unique production is the concept, ‘river’. Uniqueness and novelty its religion is. Initially the absorption of ideas behind making this production is something simply great and its conception and execution made the work sway in a free air of expression with no bother about either the ‘conventions’ or the ‘non-conventions’. The story of the river is presented in a garland of six Indian poems, six philosophies and six genres of Indian music respectively.

The first segment among them is ‘Ogo Nadi’ of Ravindra Natha Tagore. The making of Bharathanatyam-body language into the life of Raveendra Sangeet itself is an exquisite beginning. The subtle wavy journeying of the river reflected in both the dancers’ movement-execution and the music rendition mutually existed so well. Second in the lead is of a segment from Sangham literature detailing the relation between the wind and the wave. In this segment, a white cloth is used to depict the drift and changes of the wind and it’s done effectively by the motion of the cloth in dancers’ hands replicated from footwork of the dancers.

Third one in the repertoire is a solo rendition of the renowned Banarasi poet Kabir’s ‘Kinare Kinari’ done by the eminent dancer and the director of the dance company Leela Samson herself. This Abhinaya piece is less-concentrated on the movement patterns rather it beautifully depicted the propitious flow of histrionics with Samson’s signature style. The theme line of this poetic work is related to a ‘rite of passage’ called ‘Gauna’ the newly wed’s initial journey to her husband’s home. Here the Nayika asks mother Ganges ‘What would she carry along with her in the journey to her new home. Her hope, anxiety, overwhelming desires regarding her future etc. comes to the fore in this poetic piece.

The poetic piece staged as fourth in the repertoire is from the legendary theatre personality, Girish Karnad’s proclaimed work Hayavadana. This piece is executed in a folksy mode addressing the memories as unchained, and relating it to the relentless flow of the river especially to the fact that ‘river has no fear of memories’. The movement patterns are quite visible and vibrant to carry forward the theme most successful in its toto.

Next segment in this compendium is a Deekshithar Krithi. A devotional piece praising river Ganges penned with descriptive variables. Among such imaginative variables, a vibrant piece ‘Gireesha dhare’ which delineates the story of ‘how lord Shiva adorns river Ganges’ has also been done.

The final piece is an Urudu Poetry penned by Ustad Taanraz Khan, detailing the philosophical aspect of life where in the voyage of life, the traveller loses his anchor and submits himself to the mercy of the river as his only asylum. The movements in this segment as a whole conveyed the rhythm of affection and love of the river, the one which ensures the majesty of the awesome. The production ended beautifully at the crescendo of happiness and tranquillity with a soothness of a river in summer.

There would be many featured and substantial aspects to make a production for reaching and successful to the audience. What more I see as much interesting in this production is its scope and room for interpretation. As I mentioned earlier the uniqueness of this production is its nature of being either non-conventional or conventional at the same time. It effectively bridges these contraries and takes us into a sublime level of creation, where all these borderlines vanish.

Being an artiste and an art-lover, I would like to pinpoint some underlying imageries that this production has strongly brought out to the freedom of interpretation of the viewers. Somewhere knowingly or unknowingly the very concept of feminity has been celebrated in the entire garland of these six pieces. The portrayal of Lord Siva and river Ganges story in the fifth segment of the production characterised by the innovative content of movement execution ‘Gireesha Dhare’, showed the conflict between Shiva and Ganges in three states. The story of this total movement set is of the conflict between the two contraries, feminine and masculine and it is driven through the phenomenal ideologies of Dominance, Resistance and Submission.

In this show as a whole, the costume colours chosen are white and the Ocean blue as dominant colours and with red and yellow colours on the border lines. The white colour stands for transparency and absorption and the blue for depth. The usage of red and yellow borders on the white garb could be the indicators of the quality of the absorption and the reflection.

A strong reason behind the success of this production is undoubtedly the voice cover of the introductory note. The light direction by Muraleedharan Thayyil was exceptional. The accurate use of light stood as the pillar support from the beginning to the end of this entire production. The recorded music felt so lively and the contextual variations of the voice cultures are understood and have reached the audience so well. And the whole instrument of this artistic expression is nothing but the bodies of the dance; the seven dancers including the exquisite Leela Samson fired the magic on the stage as if it were water bodies. It was altogether a full-fledged river retreat for the Rasikas of Thrissur in this merciless 37degree sunny blaze.           


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