Enchanting circles
- Padma Jayaraj
e-mail: padmajayaraj@gmail.com

March 13, 2014

Yogini Chakra is a dance recital of a Korean creation myth by Luisa Sapgna against the musical backdrop of Paolo Pacciolla. Choreographed by the performer herself, the couple from Italy staged a refreshingly new production to an audience trained to understand dance recitals in the language of mudras and songs to the accompaniment of musical instruments that are classical.

In this recital, the unfamiliar stamps the show: the theme, the form, the perspective, the costume, and the music. The unfamiliar begins with the utilisation of the venue for presentation. The concept of inclusiveness is a lesson, for a tree in the background is transformed into the Tree of Life central to the theme. The male principle, so dominant in religious myths like the Hindu or Christian creation myths, is negated to highlight the feminist perspective.

Nymph-like in blue costume, with a chakra like an aura, her back turned to the audience, the yogini is seated in deep meditation. As if roused from trance in music close to tribal chants, the Spider woman flies down with her daughter. Even the narration appears as part of the performance. And then Creation starts like the spider weaving its web, from East to West, from North to South. She creates the sun, the moon and the stars; the day and the night; the man and the woman. And then she knits them together. In measured ballet like movements, the Spider woman moves in concentric circles weaving threads of creation, punctuated by yogic poses. And then come the rains. Music reverberate the pitter- patter of falling rains, the frenzy of torrential rains, of flowing rivers, of flooding waters. And the singing of the word “rain...rain...” forms the symphony as the dancer communicates its intensity in tandava style performance.

Life starts: fishes swim in flowing rivers, plants grow in reckless abandon, trees bloom in splendour. Rains set the cycle in motion. The wheel of Creation turns on. Rain bounds everything on earth, nurturing life. Green envelops the land. Ribbon dance and green colour clothes are used as props to create the stage effect. The cycle set in motion, her job done, the Spider woman flies away with her daughter.

In this amazing dance performance, we catch glimpses of yogini rituals of Odisha, the practice of Odissi dance, tantric yoga and features of Western ballet. And what music rained to drench the land of creation! What instruments! Dair, axis, bodhran, mbira, all invented by Paolo Pacciolla. The unfamiliar was simply enchanting.

Yogini Chakra is a fusion of contemporary and Indian dance forms that represents female power coming out when women gather in a circle. The dance takes its inspiration from the rituals associated with the 64 yogini temple in the land of Odisha. The choreography and concert flow in a single musical stream by Paolo Pacciolla. Music guides the flow of dance, its gestures and meaning, through sounds of drumming and strumming. Paolo Pacciolla, musician and ethno musicologist, is deeply interested in African tribal music. Trained as a pianist, he is an inventor of drums and string instruments experimenting for different strains. Thus, he could tune on drums and play on musical bows, his inventions “a strong contribution to modern frame drumming.”

What I missed is lighting. Lighting on a proscenium stage would have given the recital the enchanting touch befitting to its thematic dimension. But the presentation as part of the International Indian Dance Festival 2014 held on Feb 18 at Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi, did not have scope for modern lighting.

The Italian couple, made for each other, come to India as migratory birds. Each time they bring their tribute, a new production to the land of their inspiration.

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer on the arts and travel. She is a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com