The following review and image is contributed by Soumya Tilak…
The Fine Arts Association of Arizona and Sampradaya Dance of India ( a dance institute in Phoenix) came together with other sponsoring associations to present Krishna Bhakthi Mala, a thematic dance presentation by the group Shrishti – The Creation, on Saturday March 7th, 2009. The image below is the flyer for the presentation.
While the overall performance was graceful and inspiring, I feel the dance could have been a bit more vibrant and should have been exploding with energy. Group dances are always expected to be colorful and a treat to the eyes, and the dancers did justice through their perfect co-ordination, colorful costumes and colorful lighting and stage decorations – indeed a treat to the eyes. However, the theme could have been conveyed in a more convincing manner. I felt the performance was rendered at the surface level, when it could have delved a bit deeper. The theme chosen, Krishna Bhakthi Mala, revolves around Krishna – the tiny tot of Yashoda, the hearthrob of the Gopikas, the consort of Radha, the slayer of Kalinga the Serpant, the protector of Panchali, and so on.
The dancers opened with a Mallari followed by an invocatory piece – Gaaiye Ganapathi. The dancers performed the mallari gracefully, though it could have been a bit more energetic, and being the opening item, it could have contained more brisk movements that would have kept the audience in rapture. The dancers depicted the story of the elephant head of Lord Ganesha, in the sanchari of Gaaiye Ganapathi. The team could have researched more into the meaning of the words in the song. There was one instance where the dancers gestured the face of Lord Ganapathi, when the lyric was “Vinayaka”. Vinayaka means the one who has no leader or master above him. Clearly, the dancers’ expression and the lyrics didnt match there. They should have probably worked more on getting their gestures right for the right words. The next item was a Jugalbhandi, that was elegantly rendered with apt costumes – one team wore skirts and the other team wore pants, or pyjamas. The choreography matched the music as well as the costumes. One major plus point in the entire performance was the dancers’ attention to their positions. Each formation was neatly executed, leaving no scope for the audience to be confused – something very critical to a group performance. Exceptional sense of position. The varnam, which was perfomed next, was tuned to Ragamalika, with Hindi lyrics. Varnam means color. Of course, the varnam truly was colorful – but colorful more materialistically than holistically; but that’s what I felt. There were colorful costumes and colorful lights. But there wasn’t much color in the expressions, where there could have been more. The sanchari of Krishna playing with the Gopis and Krishna eating mud and showing the entire universe in his mouth to Yashoda were nice, but maybe, they could have been a bit more dramatic.
The main thematic presentation, Krishna Bhakthi Mala, did not start until the second half. Here, several episodes from Krishna’s life – from the birth of Krishna, to the Kalinga Nardhanam, to the Panchali Vastraharan were depicted. A notable aspect of this presentation was the display of apt pictures of Krishna in the background as slides as the presentation went on. I felt the depiction of Kalinga Nardhanam lacked the power and aggression it deserved. Of course, the dancer who assumed the role of Kalinga, amused the audience by snaky gimmicks; no pun intended! But, it was a weak and vulnerable Kalinga, totally opposite to the strong and egotistical personality of his! The duel between Krishna and Kalinga was not that powerful, it lacked vigor. It was only graceful; but here, I don’t think grace is the right element to be used. The Panchali Vastraharan could also have been more dramatized. Dramatization is a very important element of dance – especially in a thematic presentation such as this.
I noticed that there were redundancies in the performance – Krishna being born out of Devaki’s womb, and being brought up under Yashoda’s care were repeated both in the varnam and in the main presentation. This could have been avoided, and instead they could have shown other episodes from Krishna’s life – maybe the friendship between Sudhama and Krishna? or the Govardhana Giridhara episode?
On the whole, it was a nice and poised performance, but I feel it could have been much better. The songs selected were apt, and showed that the dancers put in a lot of care while selecting songs. Enna thavam seidhanai Yashoda, a very popular padam by Papanasam Sri. Sivam in Ragam Kapi, set to Adi Thalam was one of the songs in the Krishna Bhakti Mala medley. One of Purandaradasa’s compositions in Ragam Arabhi, Aadithano Ranga, which is on the Kalinga Nardhanam of Krishna, was also used. And the dancers did justice by performing without any mistakes, but they failed to produce the vibrations to touch our souls, with the exception of a few dancers. The dancers could have contributed more from within than with just coordinated movements. I feel they had a very nice theme, a very popular theme, and they had very good songs, appropriate props, and costumes too, but maybe they could have exploited all that to the fullest capacity.
The idea of having a few dancers demonstrate a summary of the next item to come is really good, and very necessary for a foreign audience. That way, the audience can follow through the performance.
Several dancers all around the world do presentations based on Krishna Bhakti. I believe each dancer or choreographer, should demonstrate their individuality, their strong points, in their presentations, and these presentations should enunciate their thoughts, opinions, or interpretations. Krishna Bhakti could be interpreted in so many ways. Bhakti itself can be interpreted in several ways. And how you interpret Bhakti toward Krishna, and how you demonstrate your interpretation is what makes you unique from others. Dance is a medium to communicate wih the audience, yes, but it is also a medium through which you communicate with yourself, you seek the Paramaathma within yourself. Dance is an experience – your experience in the journey toward the soul. So, perhaps the dancers could have gone that extra mile to put their mark or signature to their performance, to make it a unique experience for the audience. I might have not seen all the performances in the world, but I have seen enough to understand why some performances are an experience, and why some are just concerts.