Kathak installation in the midst of nature
Longing to be one with the infinite   
- Dr. SD Desai
e-mail: sureshmrudula@yahoo.co.in

April 11, 2012

Ahmedabad’s dancing couple Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh-Shah presented their Aanart group of young dancers in an hour long dance piece as installation art specially choreographed on a large open space at a farm house set in the idyllic surroundings of Alloa Hills. The refreshing performance made it a cherished experience, exhilarating as much for quite a large number of invitees sitting on a lawn-capped gentle slope as for the seven girls and a boy who emerged now on their left, now right, now in front, using vertical space as well.

Kathak here responded to nature under the starlit sky and the caressing ubiquitous air in the stillness of the night. The gracefully rising movement, free but controlled, of the dancers in earthy colours, matched the skyward joyous growth of the trees and their slow horizontal movement mirrored the soft flow of air and the water in the pool.

Momentarily, the eternal purush and prakriti elements playfully interacted under a Kadamb tree on a side, the group exuded joy under the tiny bower that formed the backdrop, and atop a small structure on which creepers rose, for some time they turned whirling dervishes, expressing humility and the desire to be one with nature. Tagore’s line ‘My heart longs to join in thy song …’ and his longing to be one with the infinite with the finite existence flashed on the mind as they danced.

Soft musical sounds and voices that wafted heightened the lyrical experience, which was initiated with ta thai. The sounds – from percussion, strings and breath – that accompanied it all through and sparse words – like nadiya dheere baho and unhi-n ke paas baha chale – evoked moods that ranged from sensual to extrasensory.

In the imaginatively choreographed piece, the colours of the costumes the dancers wore – light green, soft orange, pale ash and pink on white – matched those of the earth. With diyas carried in hands and put floating in the pool, a feel of all the five elements was palpable.

In her informal foreword to the visual treat, the affably ebullient dancer-choreographer Ishira, always beaming with creative ideas, described dance as a mrityudharmi art, adding that the off-the-track venue and choreography could help fix its images in the viewer’s visual memory to go home with.

From the richly decorated interiors of Mogul courts, Kathak in modern times often dances its way to the open air and space. Not long ago, it comes to mind, Madhu Nataraj’s dainty dance performance, presented by this couple’s Connect Club, cast a magical spell on the viewers against the backdrop of Sarkhej Roza on the outskirts of the city one cold moonlit night.

Dr. SD Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts critic for many years. Among dance journals, he has written for Attendance, Nartanam and Sruti. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy and Oxford University Press. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance writer.