'The Cloud Messenger' by Nava Dance Theatre
- Dr. Rohini Dandavate

August 28, 2013
Universally, innovation in classical dance forms is inimical to traditionalists, and tensions between tradition and innovation continue. Across all cultures, there are artists who have transcended the codes of the traditional genres and illustrated their own imagination fusing both conventional and unconventional methods in dance. One such example is ‘The Cloud Messenger,’ an interpretation of Kalidasa’s ‘Meghdoot’ presented by the Nava Theater, in San Francisco from Aug 22 - 25, 2013 under the auspices of CounterPulse, a non-profit arts space in the heart of San Francisco.
Artistic directors Nadhi Thekkek and Sophia Valath, along with Arun Mathai (principal dancer), Jaya Kurian, Priya Sreedharan, Shilpi S Mehta, and Tanu Sreedharan through the traditional dance form of Bharatanatyam provided an innovative interpretation of a classic story. Every element in the dance piece was chosen aptly and the performers conveyed their interpretation elegantly to soul touching music compositions by renowned composer and flautist GS Rajan.
The performers successfully brought forth the choreographer's concept with a novel and yet simple approach. With well executed adavus and precise movements, the dancers etched a beautiful and clear shape of the cloud. Their fluid movements created an ambiance that quickly transported the viewers into the imaginary world of the exiled and lovelorn Yaksha. The audience could feel the dancers’ emotions, which were clearly communicated by their facial expressions. The soft lilting musical support by GS Rajan on the flute, Murali Parthasarathy in vocal, MS Sukhi on the mridangam and N Veeramani on the violin along the melodious renditions of the syllables effectively aided in developing the choreographers’ idea of how “love’s journey though risky, can indeed be something beautiful.” Without deviating from the framework of the traditional Bharatanatyam vocabulary, the presentation amply showed how innovation is successful when developed from tradition.

Dr. Rohini Dandavate, a former dance officer of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, is an exponent of Odissi, a scholar and arts administrator.