IF I’d watched Arushi Mudgal dance side by side with her aunt, Madhavi Mudgal, on TV, I would have thought they’d used some high-tech gimmickry to have Madhavi’s younger self dance with her present self.
The uncanny resemblance was not just a result of blood ties between aunt and niece but also because of the similarity of dance style seen in the final Pallavi (in rag Bhairavi) that concluded Odissi: Tradition and Transference, a performance that was a part of Sutra Dance Theatre’s Under the Stars series 2007 (2nd Flush), held last weekend. Madhavi is a senior disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (one of the pioneers of the Odissi revival in
Arushi, born in 1986, started Odissi at the age of five under the tutelage of her aunt. Despite her tender years, Arushi has already toured extensively in
In this performance in KL, we witness the transference of tradition through two generations.
Madhavi’s Mangalacharan was one of the most simple and yet alluring invocatory pieces I’ve seen. Hands cupped most of the time, she swayed rhythmically to Sangitaratnakara, a 13th century musical treatise. Her feet stamped to the ever-changing rhythm and her consistent and gentle rocking motion invoked the image of cosmic balance and harmony. She moved like a slithering snake: one moment gliding smoothly, another, striking suddenly.
In this pure dance item that celebrates rhythm and movement, the stage was her playground; and she took liberties with movements she had inherited to create a lively and energetic piece. The only movement that she did not quite complete properly was the balancing act – she had to rush rather quickly into the next movement.
Ashtapadi (Yahi Madhava) is a work choreographed by Kelucharan. Yahi Madhava is extracted from the Gita Govind, a 12th century Sanskrit poem that forms the core of Odissi for abhinaya (expression).
In this song, Radha (performed by Madhavi) is depicted as a hurt and jealous heroine – she has just noted the telltale marks of
Abhinaya was a lovely personification of Spring through Cupid’s darting love arrows and flowers and trees and butterflies. This piece, performed and choreographed by Madhavi, overall, portrayed an aura of love.
Oriya Champu, written by Oriyen poet, Kavi Surya Baladeva Ratha, became a dance item and a wonderful abhinaya (Spring) piece. In this story, a sakhi (confidante) of Radha’s chides her for having fallen in love with
The Pallavi (in rag Bhairavi) I mentioned earlier concluded the performance instead of the traditional concluding Moksha. This was the only duet in the performance, the only time when Madhavi and Arushi danced together.
Madhavi’s choreography is made up of complex patterns with sequences arranged in an aesthetic order to bring out the architectonics of the tradition. She showed us double-sided views of a single movement with Arushi’s back to the audience and Madhavi facing us. Her combinations of synchronous and asynchronous structures also created visual uniformity.
The asynchronous structures implied that tradition can change and adapt with variations suited to the successive generation. But more significantly, Arushi was recording Madhavi’s movements and consciousness in that uniformity, hence “transference of tradition”. There is only one way to do that for dance, and that is to dance it, over and over again.