Monday, August 07, 2006

(D) July 28, 2006 - Adorations

Pix source: The Star

COULD you love someone you’ve never known? That was what solos Vidhya Pushpanathan (20) and Jagatheswara (17) grappled with in Ramli Ibrahim’s Adorations (Second Flush), held at Amphi-Sutra, Kuala Lumpur, over the last two weekends.

Adorations, first staged in 1985, fleshed out movements and philosophical ideas behind Odissi. This piece was a dedication and a tribute by Ramli to the style of Odissi propagated by his guru, Deba Prasad Das, who died in 1986. He was one of the revivalist pioneers of Odissi.

The guru role played by Mano Maniam was that of Deba Prasad Das.

While Pushpanathan and Maniam portrayed the more convincing teacher-disciple relationship, overall, the lack of rasa (feeling) and bakti (adoration) in both dancers were primarily due to the fact that Deba Prasad was not the guru they knew. Unless the young dancers-cum-actress/ actor can pull off a Grammy, it would be better if Maniam had played Ramli, the guru they can directly relate to.

While the “guru” that is represented could change, the parampara (school) of Deba Prasad Das should rightly prevail in the repertoire. Here we see the perseverance of Deba Prasad’s style, which is noted for its strong balance between the vigorous and the gentle, the masculine and the feminine. His style also combines elements of folk, classical and tribal dance.

“When you watch, you learn,” said Maniam as guru-ji to his disciple. “That was exactly what Adorations served to its audience – an enlightening “Odissi for Dummies”.

The performance began by introducing the basic steps in Odissi (chowka and tribanghi), then moving on to emulate four temple sculptures (veena player, the indolent maiden, cymbals player, and the drum player) or sthai, reprising the tale of Siva’s eight-fold forms, and concluding with moksha, the final dance of joy and release.

Some of the more enjoyable moments came from Maniam who read beautiful poems that inspire dance with verses such as “?things standing shall fall but the moving shall ever stay”. Maniam slipped into the dhoti-clad guru-ji role like a duck to water.
He stressed the need to maintain the essence of purity in the traditional dance form. “None of the kush kush stuff allowed,” said Maniam, as he angled his disciple’s arms into a perfect square shaping the chowka. “The line between the sacred and the profane is thin. We must not vulgarise nor prostitute dance.

“Bakti is adoration. The body itself is nothing. It must be made into the finest instrument dedicated to God. The dancer’s body is the perfect creation of God. The dancer must learn to adore his body. Not until the body is bored of a movement can you speak of freedom. Devotion to one’s art is adoration. It is through bakti that dance becomes yoga.”

Did the disciples bear any semblance to God’s perfect creation? Not quite yet.

Jagatheswara made his Odissi debut in this performance. When he first moved on stage, it looked very obvious that a body nurtured for Bharatanatyam was trying hard to adapt to Odissi, a totally different style.

Although I admired his attention to detail, the high-level of energy and the clearly accented movements, his style was too brisk and not fluid enough for my liking. His movements were still bound by consciousness to technique mastery and less on rasa.

Pushpanathan was evidently the more mature Odissi exponent of the two. Her soft, continuous and graceful movements embodied how the body should “melt”. She is on the verge of “freedom” (from technique) and is clearly showing signs of adoring her body. She was also much more focused in reprising Siva’s eight-fold forms (compared to Jagatheswara), where she tackled each form with fierce intensity.

Odissi is a dance traditionally dominated by men (Odissi was originally performed by Gotipuas, men who dressed themselves like female dancers). Thus, I found it interesting to observe how the dancers took on opposite gender roles and how they approached Odissi.

Jagatheswara was not as comfortable depicting the indolent maiden as Pushpanathan was with depicting the fearsome Indian gods. Was it a matter of shyness in the former dancer or merely lack of mastery in abhinaya (expression)?

Jagatheswara’s approach was clearly aggressive (tandava) whilst Pushpanathan took a combination approach; both tandava and lasya (soft and graceful).

Well, performing solo is no easy task. Often, it takes a charismatic dancer to keep the audience engaged. As the “chosen ones” for Adorations, Ramli clearly saw the solo potential in them. With more honing, they will certainly come to realise their full potential.

1 comment:

Fuck You Google said...

That was some interesting history.

I don't know why anyone would want to know so much about it, but...:)