Saturday, 18 August 2012

Kind of Bharatanatyam

There is an Indian dance art form where the artist is forced to work with a well established range of gestures. She must choreograph on the basis of 108 key transitional movements, using the facial expressions (abhinaya) and hand gestures in such way that an unnatural or inappropriate movement would destroy the style. Mistaking Bharatanayam for any other dance is impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea or story of the dance to express itself through the communications of their hands and body in such a direct way that any audience, regards of their cultural context, can understand the meaning. 

The resulting compositions lack the eclectic influences and bravura displays of much western dance, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation. 

The conviction that the direct transmission is the most meaningful reflection, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique discipline of the Bharatnatyam dancer. Ensemble cohesion is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved in Mythili Prakash's Natyam.

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the dancer needs her framework of time and space - in this case, the converted studio at Dance Base. Mythili Prakash presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate an emotive performance with sure reference to the primary language of her tradition.

Mythili conceived the three settings to showcase the diverse aspects of Bharatanatyam and arrived in Edinburgh ready to explain to the audience what they would see. Therefore, you will hear how particular gestures indicate certain characters - Krishna signified by the flute - or conversations. Prakesh has performed these pieces internationally and I think without exception each of the three pieces expressed the core idea precisely.

Dance Base 16-25 August

With apologies to Bill Evans.

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