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Nrityagram at The Temple of Dendur

by Robert Abrams
January 10, 2015
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028
212-535-7710
Two-part temple, guiding the eye to infinities,
         and in the inner sanctum of infinity, an ancient dancer in a white shroud.
Ancient temples seem like dead things today:
         beautiful, but bleached.
Nrityagram showed what temples must have been like, should be,
         bursting with life, color, the sheen of the sweat of devotion.
         A crucible of flowers.
This show was Odissi taken to its roots in a temple
         in a city that is never finished.
Each dancer always is and will be at the same time,
         at the ends of an instance.
In between is and will be, passionate performance,
         the dancers, the musicians:
         worth emulating.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble are both extraordinary and remarkable, by themselves on any ordinary day. Brought together with the World Music Institute, this one-evening two-performances-only show was a truly unique experience. The 5 pm performance that my daughter and I attended was packed, standing room only, on three sides of the Temple of Dendur. Many in the 5 pm crowd were young children. This show was exactly what the dance community needs more of: shows presented at a kid-friendly hour that are accessible without being dumbed down, with superior quality performance. Shows like this will grow the dance community, raising new dance fans and new dancers. My daughter wanted to see more of the museum, just from the short walk from the entrance to the temple hall. I am sure she was not the only child in attendance who responded this way, so shows such as this will likely raise more members for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur was like a priceless jewel cradled securely in a setting of the rarest enchanted metal. What would you pay for such a work of art? At these two performances, the regular museum admission plus a willingness to wait on line was all you needed: the unique beauty of this experience was free, a precious gift to the City of New York.

The program of solos and duets, danced by Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy, featured the US premiere of "Shyamala Vandana", a song dedicated to Goddess Shyamala, composed by Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra and chosen to honor the evening's site-specific setting. The program continued with two pieces from Nrityagram's "Saṃyoga" and "Songs of Love and Longing", which were set to an original live score composed by Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi. The Temple of Dendur is located in The Sackler Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains many ancient treasures worth lingering contemplation.

If you see Nrityagram will be performing, to paraphrase a line from the show's narration, hasten to them, Nrityagram awaits you. The combination of the setting with performance was so beautiful, if there are future performances at The Temple of Dendur, I would add, hasten to there, The Met awaits you.
Nrityagram at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Nrityagram at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photo © & courtesy of Nan Melville


Nrityagram at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Nrityagram at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photo © & courtesy of Nan Melville

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