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Susan Weinrebe
Performance Reviews
Indian
The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago
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India Dance

by Susan Weinrebe
March 15, 2007
The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago
1306 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605
312.344.8300
Natya Dance Theatre
(Natya Dance Theatre Website)
World Premiere
Alakshaya – The Invisible Veil
Concept, Choreography, Research by Hema Rajagoplan, Krithika Rajagopalan
Additional Research by Dr. Ram Das
Music Composition by K. Gajendran, Doug Lofstrom, T.S. Sankaran
Lyrics by K. Gajendran
Costume Design by C.A. Joy
Additional Tailoring by D.K. Tailors, India
Lighting and Set Design by Kevin Rechner
Production Coordinator, India by Rukmini Rajan
Musicians: Sarah Allen, Michael Levin, Doug Lofstrom, Leandro Lopez-Varady, Hema Rajagopalan, Krithika Rajagopalan, P.K. Ranganathan, James Sanders, T.S. Sankaran, Alpha Stewart, Jr., Charu Swaminathan, Srikant Venkataraman, Shyamala Venkateswaran
Dancers: Calai Chandra, Savitha Chelladurai, Emma Draves, Shobhana Gopalakrishnan, Sharmila Gopinathan, Mira Luxion, Mirnalini Mohanraj, Darshana Nair, Vishaka Raguveer, Krithika Rajagopalan, Shuba Sadagopan, Nithya Sunder, Joan Taylor
Program Notes by Hema Rajagopalan, Tharani J.
Funding by Boeing, National Endowment For the Arts
Public Relations: Allison Yates/Carol Fox & Associates


A veil may protect or conceal. It is a membrane between the wearer and the world. Because of the veil, one's vision is altered. Wearing a veil is foreign in western culture, but it is both a real garment and useful symbol when Natya Dance Theatre uses this metaphor in its beautiful and moving production, Alakshaya – The Invisible Veil.

The family collaboration of Hema and Krithika Rajagopalan draws on classic traditions of Indian dance as the audience is invited to examine individual willingness to confront personal desires and responsibility to the world. This mother/daughter team demanded much of the sold-out crowd, as the dances challenged each watcher to look inward.

Nature of Desire: Music composed by K. Gajendran. In growing light, to the accompaniment of musicians seated to the side of the stage and all but hidden, the ankle bells of five dancers rhythmically emphasize the repetitive stamping, 1,2,3,1,2,3 of their percussive footwork. Balance and symmetry of classic poses and head movements are emphasized as the dancers pair and regroup, their green and orange costumes resembling tender shoots on a new day.

The Yearning: Music and lyrics composed by K. Gajendran. Krithika Rajagopalan's solo is a text book of expression through facial nuance and physical mime. Being so physically beautiful, her performance is all the more poignant in that she silently enacts the approach and retreat of a woman besotted with her love object. Does love render one blind, or in the case of the night's theme, veiled to the truth? What is real, anyway?

Two ladies sitting in adjacent seats schooled me in the importance of facial expression as a key technique in the Bharata Natyam dance technique. One of them, a professional dancer, explained how even the smallest lift of an eyebrow or degree of glance conveyed meaning. As kind as they were in mentoring me, it was clear that I was seeing a master demonstrate her art as Ms. Rajagopalan danced a vast play of emotions in her idolatry for the unseen object of her love.

Race to the Bottom: Music composed by Doug Lofstrom. To intermittently spoken phrases from Maya Angelous's poem "A Brave and Startling Truth," the dancers use a more modern vocabulary of movement as the accompaniment takes a jazzy turn. Anger and frustration seemed to be part of the expression with attraction and opposition as a counterpoint of movement. The program notes asked, "Should the vulnerable be preyed upon? Can hope prevail when basic survival is threatened?" Battling elements seemed clear enough, but perhaps I was watching expressions too closely to see the global message intended of Nature vs. Advances.

The Dance Goes On: Music composed by T.S. Sankaran. Amid screen projections of war, devastation, mutilation and misery, the literal "writing on the wall," the dancers swirl around amidst the noise of disaster, personal and global. Admittedly the pictures rather than the dance captured my attention even as I tried to focus. Horrific images of starving children and one of a body part hung up in a chain link fence blotted everything else out. I felt that the jolting montage left the audience without a suggestion for solutions, only the problems.

Then as a chant of rhymed notes, a scale, hummed as background, Ms. Rajagopalan walked to center stage, cupped her hands and caught a torrent of rice falling from the rafters.

The artistry and skill of the varied dancers of Natya were noteworthy as was the musicianship providing atmospheric sound for the pieces. Allusions to a metaphoric veil in all but the last dance were a bit obscure to convey the intent of the choreographers without the helpful attending program notes. Even so, at least at the end, using Maya Angelou's words, "We must confess that we are the possible." The dance being the medium for the message, the sincerity of neither can be doubted. The little packet of hopeful seeds included in my press kit attests to this.

Postscript:

Days after Natya Dance Theatre's premiere of Alakshaya – The Invisible Veil, some of the bulbs in my garden began to push shoots through the dirt to make their tender appearance in a still cool and uncertain early spring.

I was reminded of the final moment of performance when Krithika Rajagopalan cupped her hands to catch rice that poured from the rafters and pooled around her feet. Like the little envelope of perennial seeds included in my press kit (A first!), Natya offers these two symbols for hope and the cycle of replenishment. We can each plant our little seeds for a better future in our gardens and in our world.
Natya

Natya

Photo © & courtesy of Eileen Ryan


Natya

Natya

Photo © & courtesy of Eileen Ryan


Natya

Natya

Photo © & courtesy of Eileen Ryan

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