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AVANI.. a handful of dust - Critics Speak
a dance theatre presentation by Anita Ratnam and ensemble


Reviews of the ODISHA CONTEMPORARY DANCE FESTIVAL, 2nd edition of SAMAKALA FESTIVAL - 2013, where Anita Ratnam presented ABOUT HER, AVANI,  solo contemporary dance-theatre presentation in the NEO BHARATAM style


Contemporary rhythms
- Leela Venkataraman, The Hindu, Friday Review, 20 June 2013
The item was evocative based on Muttuswamy Dikshitar’s “Meenakshi me mudam dehi” in Poorvikalyani, which so impressed Tagore that he created a lyric in the very same raga and ‘mettu’, but with words on ‘Basanti” in praise of Spring, for the Brahmosamajist Tagore saw divinity in Nature and not the fish-eyed Goddess Meenakshi. Superb recorded music alternating between lines of Muttuswamy’s composition and that of Tagore, the silken changeover never losing raga flow, saw the dance interpretation in the seated position, even while classical abhinaya in tone, very moving. By far the best of the evening was Avani inspired by Tagore’s epic poem, the choreography assisted by Canada’s Hariharan and Rex. Prithvi or Earth as both Mother Protector and Destroyer, like the cat giving birth and devouring the last kitten of its own litter. The throbbing music in two tracks, one a base flute and the other sharper, with edekka and drums and ragas like Hamsadhwani and Desh (concluding obeisance to Mother Earth), the lulling music contrasted with mocking sounds of laughter, all added so much to the performance.
http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/contemporary-rhythms/article4834191.ece



Mosaic of movement
- Rupa Srikanth, The Hindu, September 27, 2012
The simple songs and intelligent planning added to the overall impact of Anita Ratnam’s tribute to Tagore.
http://www.thehindu.com/arts/dance/mosaic-of-movement/article3942249.ece


In a backyard...
- Akhila Krishnamurthy, www.narthaki.com, September 19, 2012
Where the words ended, movement began. Anita stepped in, and her choreography, drawn from a slew of dance styles, exuded a quiet sense of poignancy and elegance, befitting the man. Equally interesting was the juxtaposition of words and movements; the dancer seamlessly merged with the women in conversation and a musician, and together the stage became a happy, recognizable backyard of sorts.
http://www.narthaki.com/info/rev12/rev1265.html



A handful of Tagore magic
- Prashanti Ganesh / ENS, September 18, 2012
Just as Rathnam embraced the themes of love, longing, hope, eternity, nature, nurture and divinity — some of Tagore’s favourite subjects to write about — she didn’t hesitate to approach some of Tagore’s darker themes with the same intensity.

http://newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/article608486.ece


Tagore relocated
Structured around five poems interpreted as handfuls of dust, words, flowers, leaves and gold, this piece of dance-theatre did what many other interpretations in this season of Tagore have failed to do - abstract the sense of the poet’s words to relocate them in our times. The set underlined Avani’s contemporary spirit.

Avani held us with its freshness, so different from the mush that Tagore is often reduced to. Its interwoven texts, rich-voiced singing, unobtrusive but effective back projection, and unambiguously modern sensibility, combined to challenge and charm, and, most importantly, to make Tagore sharply relevant.

- Shanta Gokhale, The Times of India, April 5, 2012
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/nri/art-culture/Tagore-relocated/articleshow/12543666.cms


"For the longest time Tagore was an alien to the performing arts practices in South India ,which had enough of its own historical literature to deal with. AVANI by Anita Rathnam managed to successfully break many notions and blur the lines, opening up new doors to welcome Tagore and creating yet another cultural bond. How South Indian cultural practices influenced the great poet's thoughts come through with the wonderful theatrical experience Anita gives us. With slices of interesting history, fabulous costumes and lights, the narrative keeps you gripped. AVANI, I would consider is a wonderful work in progress, like all of Tagore's poetry was. Flexible in its format, the production has a quality of timelessness and can relate to all eras and still convey its relevance."
- Veejay Sai 
(Writer, Editor and Culture Critic)


A face of humanity

- Utpal K Banerjee, The Pioneer, January 23, 2012
Unique choreography… they (Anita Ratnam and director Hari Krishnan) have succeeded in creating a new idiom of dance – theatre!


Preview of Bharat Rang Mahotsav
- First City, Delhi's city magazine, January 2012


Interpretation through movements
- DHNS, Deccan Herald, December 8, 2011
Her choreography interpreted earth as feminine force. But Anita interpreted the metaphors used in Tagore’s poem in a modern sense and this made the dance form more adaptable to contemporary audience. The intensity and simplicity of her performance was greatly enjoyed by he audience.


Connecting with Tagore 
- Shutapa Paul, The Sunday Standard, September 18, 2011
Anita Ratnam lives her dream after a lifetime of waiting.



Saila Sudha presents Nritya Sangama
- Lalitha Venkat, www.narthaki.com September 18, 2011
The presentation scored high on aesthetics, the wonderful recorded music and refined articulation where Bharatanatyam was not foot stamping strong, but used softly and sparingly to keep in tune with the soft style of Rabindra Sangeet.


Inspired moments 
- Sharmila Basu Thakur, The Telegraph, Calcutta, September 10 , 2011

Avani - A Handful of Dust was presented by Happenings as a part of their Rabindra Utsav, 2011 at G.D. Birla Sabhagar on August 24. Choreographed and performed by Anita Ratnam, an excellent Bharatnatyam dancer from Chennai, this Neo-Bharatam dance theatre was a homage to Rabindranath Tagore. The stage looked like a backyard or a verandah where clothes were hanging. Against this ordinary but meaningful backdrop, Anita began to explore Tagorean philosophy through various dance styles, theatrical movements, songs, narration, recitation, music and slides, and so took the audience to a different world.

The potent beauty of “Megher pore megh”, with its English translation, came out in an absolutely new manner. Anita perfectly grasped the liberal spirit of Tagore’s creation, which was reflected in the entire production. Thus she magically transformed “Basanti he bhubano mohini”, usually a pure dance choreography, into an abhinaya number. It ended with Prithvi, translated by Tarak Sen. Sahana Chatterjee as narrator showed her restrained and matured approach. Paramita Banerjee’s costume design was significant.



When the East did meet the West

- Kathakali Jana, The Telegraph, Calcutta, India, September 3 , 2011

Amongst the first poets in the world to have perceived the syncretism between the East and the West, Tagore offers himself generously to interpretations and experiment. Happenings’s Rabindra Utsav, an annual event that has come to identify itself with the Renaissance man and his creative ideals of multiculturalism, put up a remarkable show once more this year, choosing the mediums of music, dance and theatre.

Avani - A Handful of Dust, Anita Ratnam’s offering, was clearly the most significant dance production of the festival. Choosing to portray love, longing, hope, eternity, nature, nurture and divinity in the context of the quotidian, she freely drew from personal experience and set her work in a familiar backyard environment that startled with its freshness. One began to interpret oft-heard songs and frequently read poems in a new light, thanks to Ratnam’s cerebral and singularly individual reading of the works. She became Everywoman - or Everyman, if you like - and referenced the works with universal experiences of the body and the soul.



A soul-stirring  & aesthetic tribute to the bard of Bengal
- Pramita Bose, The Asian Age, Kolkata, Aug 19, 2011
High on its visual appeal and eye-grabbing aesthetics, the highlights of this protagonist performer’s dance sees her cutting capers with the contemporary genre as effortlessly as flaunting her agile footwork in the Bharatanatyam and Kathakali forms.