Prayana by Shiri Dance Ensemble
Arya Tara: Moods of Devi by Anita Ratnam and Arangham Dance Theatre
December 22, 2005 Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai
Text & Photos: Lalitha Venkat

December 29, 2005

The first performance of the evening for Kartik Fine Arts was by the Shiri Dance Ensemble from Bangalore.

The second performance was Arya Tara: Moods of Devi by Anita Ratnam and the Arangham Dance Theatre. The performance was in two parts. Group items and Anita's solo items in Bharatanatyam style in the first half titled Arya and Anita's solo contemporary work in the second half titled Tara.

Arya is a Sanskrit word for 'noble' and 'divine,' pronounced as 'Aryaa' for the feminine. The first section contained 5 dance pieces inspired by the great traditions of Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam. The iconography of Devi along with her fierce and compassionate aspects was established. Anita's personal imprint on the choreography derives from her research into ritual temple mudras, especially Arayer Sevai in the Vaishnavite temples in Tamilnadu. The items were Lalita Sahasranamam chanted by Aruna Sairam and choreographed by Anita Ratnam, followed by a traditional Kali Kauthuvam choreographed to traditional lyrics. The third item was Alarippu composed and choreographed by Hari Krishnan (of Indance, Canada). A composition of Shyama Sastry, Mayamma was sung by Gayatri Venkataraghavan and choreographed by Anita. The last item was Thillana in Ratipatipriya raga, composed by Ghatam Karthick, sung by Palakkad Sriram and choreographed by N Srikanth.

"The search for the Goddess has taken me on several paths - some direct and others oblique. Since my very first solo thematic presentation in 1991 titled Arya - The Divine Feminine, SHE has taken me on several fascinating journeys in life and dance. Many years later, through several dance creations like Daughters of the Ocean (personal myth and legend), Andari (the goddess as a female spider), Utpala (goddesses in Egypt, India and China linked by the lotus), Naachiyar (the mystic poet Andal as a goddess) and now Seven Graces, where the Tibetan Tara is abstracted as an operatic solo, I have been firmly entwined in Her web."

Tara is a Tibetan Devi who embodies aspects of Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga. The full length performance of Seven Graces was created by Anita Ratnam with collaborator and choreographer Hari Krishnan over 6 months and had its world premiere in August 2005 in Chennai. "After my solo Vaitharani in 2002, this is my second full length evening work in 14 years and marks my return to a solo format in a contemporary context," says Anita. Tara is a half hour excerpt from Seven Graces. It has no lyrics, and the commissioned music has the meditative quality of Buddhist chanting.

Anita thanked all the vocalists and music producers who readily gave their permission to use their superb recordings. "The steady decline in music for dance, the changing priorities of the young dancers in the city and the almost impossible situation with dance accompanists available for rehearsals has forced me to turn to established vocalists and commissioned recordings for the past five years," said Anita.

The evening performance divided into traditional and contemporary sections is what she refers to as, "Two worlds united by one thread. Joined by the umbilical cord of the Mother Goddess."