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The Duke on 42nd Street
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Rajika Puri in Devi-Malika

by Robert Abrams
January 18, 2008
The Duke on 42nd Street
229 West 42 Street
New York, NY 10036
(646) 223-3042
www.RajikaPuri.com
Rajika Puri presented a show that combined classical Indian dance with storytelling and live musical accompaniment with transformative energy that built as the show went on. Building on long standing Indian traditions, Ms. Puri creates an eroticism of art and intellectual exposition at the same time. Both her acts and her words are sensual, while being tasteful if honest.

Most of the "dances" in this show (each is as much a theatre piece as a dance) tell the story of a legendary Indian woman, such as Parvati, Savitri, Saraswati, Radha and Sati. While all of the dances are stylistically consistent, there is variation. Some dances use full body motion alternating with gestures. Some are full dramas while others are more a depiction of a series of emotional states where time is elongated. Or to put it another way, Radha is to a soap opera as Savitri is to Law and Order. The Sati dance was somewhere in between. No matter what variation was used, Ms. Puri was always very expressive.

Here are a few random thoughts and moments in the show I especially liked. Ms. Puri stated that "Parvati gave us dance." What was dance criticism like when classical Indian dance was first developed? At one point the music sounds like a far away ocean made by kissing and caressing a drum with help from a flute. At other times the musicians rang interesting looking bells and bowls. I loved the video of the flowing hands with flowing water behind them. I thought that while in its current form the video is intended as art, with some commentary added it would also work as an instructional video. In the Radha story, Radha says to her lover Krishna, I need to "find the pieces of myself so I can give myself to you." That about sums up the challenge of creating stable love.

This is a critique, so I have to find something to find fault with. With Ms. Puri's shows, finding fault isn't easy, but I did find one item. In Savitri, Savitri is advised not to marry Satyavan because, among other things, he will die in one year. How do they know that? I have heard this story before, so I think there is an explanation, but in this rendering it got skipped. That was the only flaw I saw in the whole evening.

Ms. Puri presents dance-theatre at its best. Her shows are always a little different and worth a look. Devi-Malika made me want to go out and dance afterwards.
Eric Fraser (flute), Shane Shanahan (drums), and Rajika Puri

Eric Fraser (flute), Shane Shanahan (drums), and Rajika Puri

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Eric Fraser (flute), Shane Shanahan (drums), and Rajika Puri

Eric Fraser (flute), Shane Shanahan (drums), and Rajika Puri

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Rajika Puri

Rajika Puri

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Rajika Puri

Rajika Puri

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Rajika Puri

Rajika Puri

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine

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