A Feast of Indian Classicism

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A FEAST OF INDIAN CLASSICISM SREYASHI DEY SRI VENKATESWARA TEMPLE PENN HILLS, PENNSYLVANIA AUGUST 26, 2000

Approaching classical Odissi East Indian dance with ballet-trained eyes and little previous exposure to the genre, one immediately appreciates the discipline of the dancers and sophisticated vocabulary that has evolved over the centuries. Current Odissi Nrutya (Odissi dance), which descended from Odra Nrutya and maintains links to both Mahari and Gotipuas traditions, is derived technically from Hindu temple sculptures and thematically from art, literature and spiritual movements of Hinduism's Vaishnava sect. Showcasing that inherently graceful style, dancer/choreographer Sreyashi Dey presented "Pallavi: The Enchantment of Odissi," a concert of five new and repertory works that satisfied informed audience members while raising the cultural consciousness of the less experienced. For the latter group, it offered an intriguing study of rhythmic footwork, beautifully defined hand gestures (mudras) and curved body placement that in this form features an S-shaped three-bend posture called "Tribhangi." At times, it was difficult to take in the whole moving picture, as these elements each commanded attention.

Choreographically rich, Dashavatar is a traditional depiction of the god Vishnu's ten avatars (or forms). Here, arresting poses made strong visual impact; for example, as one form, Matsya (fish) Dey balanced on one bent leg, body tipped forward into a diving posture, with the other leg raised behind, knee flexed. Later, she stood firmly riveted, gaze transfixed with one arm boldly jutting behind her at a sharp upward angle, the other held forward, powerfully bent at the elbow. In the finale, her torso slowly collapsed forward to the floor, effecting a reverent conclusion.

Dey's Pallavi in Raga Kirwani, a fifteen-minute abstract solo, draws impetus from the music's accelerating tempo and visual inspiration from temple sculptures. …