Seven Graces into the emotional realms of Goddess Tara  
- Aniruddhan Vasudevan, Chennai 

August 24, 2005 

Anita Ratnam's solo presentation, Seven Graces, was marked by a blurring of boundaries between the esoteric and the universal. There were many such erasures between absolutes and thus a creation of "third spaces;" a demonstration of the concreteness of such interstitial third spaces (courtesy: Homi Bhabha) that are redemptive and releasing in nature, free of the restricting certainties of the absolutes.  

The mythology of Tara, as in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, had served as a take-off point for this creative venture. Anita and her collaborator, Hari Krishnan (inDance, Canada) had deftly used eclectic textual bases and woven a narrative that was non-linear, non-descriptive and open-ended. Our being accustomed to traditional narratives makes us use the negative prefix "non" to identify such new modes of representation.  

The essence of the Tara mythology served as a background over which was woven an experiential pattern. Contemporary dance gives a lot of space for the personal and this space, instead of being an absolute personal space, is rather a transitory zone created by the overlap of the overtly public and the intensely subjective spaces. One could see the creation of such a space in the blur between the emphasis on Tara and the shift to a personal notion of motherhood. For example, the use of liturgical mudras of Tara worship could be contrasted from the use of the alapadma and pathaka (Bharata Natyam hand gestures) that took on a personal element, especially when the dancer engages in a frenetic conversation with those two gestures. One could even see the alapadma and pathaka as, in a sense, antithetical to one another the rigid and straight pathaka, suggestive of sharp-edged violence and the flower-like alapadma, suggestive of certain fragility and quietitude. And a crossing of both suggested a clearing of a space where both could coexist.  
The seven colours significant to the Tara mythology, symbolic of different natural energies, functioned as the beginnings and ends of small circular narratives. Due, probably, to the difference in qualities of the light gels, some of the colours came out more prominently than the others. Blue and red appeared stronger than the others and hence the feeling that special emphasis was given to the fluidity and cleanliness symbolized by blue and the rage and power suggested by red.  

The beginning of the piece where Anita circumscribed a quadrilateral with a movement suggestive of the umbilical cord, looked long-drawn-out and excessive. The idea that Tara, as the embodiment of compassion and motherhood, carries the burden of the world on her back was successfully suggested by the initial, slow movements.  

The extensive program notes about Tara mythology and worship were slightly misleading. While they were descriptive, linear and explanatory, the performance treated it merely as a canvas or substratum over which was constructed a different narrative. There was an urge to look in the performance for what one read in the notes. 

Also, the angelic red costume that Anita had worn for the performance looked out of place in a context that spoke about Tara and motherhood, that had for its base a fragment of Tibetan Buddhist mythology. 

Aniruddhan Vasudevan is a Bharatanatyam dancer and a senior disciple of Chitra Visweswaran. He is also a research scholar at the University of Madras.