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SPIRALS, a convergence of dance, music and theatre
featuring Anita Ratnam with Anil Srinivasan and Sikkil Gurucharan (2014)
Performance at Dakshina’s 11th Fall Festival; Harman Hall; November 6-8, 2014
7 in a Row: Indiadance
- George Jackson, danceview times, 11 Nov 2014
Anita Ratnam, on stage at Harman Hall the evening of Nov. 6,
has power. The lift of her torso when she asserts herself is imperial.
The stances she takes - often in wide, 2nd position turn-out with a
deep, rock-solid plié - leave indelible images. Ratnam has worked in
Chennai, India and around the world to bring Indiadance up to date. The
results reminded me of the 1920s and ‘30s, but perhaps I need to reset
my clock. In an underwater dance, Ratnam lay stretched on the ground,
her torso pulsing supplely like Mary Wigman did in her gentler solos.
For a dance of blossoming, Ratnam used her arms and hands to spin silken
strands into surrounding space, like Tilly Losch had done in her “Hand
Dance”. Wigman, Losch and other Western dancers incorporated Eastern
influences into their modernism at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Ratnam, starting in the historic India she inherited, has journeyed
westward and forward to arrive at similar stylizations. Her third dance
was a detailed retelling of the Ramayana epic. Although this long
narrative might seem to Westerners slightly reminiscent of Ruth St.
Denis, wasn’t Ratnam radically streamlining traditional India pantomime?
The choreography had an art deco appearance and the dancer herself as
Prince Rama and other figures was being subtlely ironic in her gender
bending as well as convincingly impressive!
Collaborating with Ratnam were two musicians and a director. The
composer Anil Srinivasan accompanied her on a western instrument, the
piano. It sounded impressionistically apt. The singer Sikkil Gurucharan
vocalized and gestured in the Carnatic manner (a droning, rhythmic,
often melancholy melodiousness). Hari Krishnan, a dance scholar who
doubts the authenticity of Indiadance, directed.