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Robert Abrams
Performance Reviews
Rubin Museum of Art
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Nayikas - Glow

by Robert Abrams
March 17, 2005
Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011

Nayikas - Glow

Presented at the Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th Street
New York, NY

Nayikas Dance Theater Company
See the previous review

Robert Abrams
March 17, 2004

Nayikas Dance Theater Company does many variations of Odissi, a classical dance style from India, very well. In the traditional MangalaCharan - Ganesh Stuti that opened the evening's performance, the dancers' graceful hand movements encompassed the space with a smile. The dancers moved well as an ensemble.

Nayikas often deals with themes of feminine identity and tonight was no exception. In Faces of a Name, they explore the story of Chitrangada, a female warrior princess who had to renounce her masculine side in order to get her prince to fall in love with her. This dance explores her resulting identity conflict. The movement is characterized by sharp angles that suggest the conflict within her. The strength of the heroine is also projected through strong postures. Such strong postures are often a signature feature of Odissi, and here they are used to good effect flavored with a modern dance overlay. The conflict is further portrayed with balanced opposition. The dancers pull each other up. They stretch and pull, positioned as if looking in a mirror. While the story has Chitrangada become an icon of pure feminine beauty, the dance itself certainly isn't suggestive of pure beauty. The choreography does a good job of portraying how uncomfortable Chitrangada is with the compromise she has made, and which she ultimately rejects. The pace of the dance builds towards the end, but ends with contemplative postures on the ground.

Pallavi - Saveri, contrasted with Faces of a Name shows off Nayikas' range. This dance is all about feminine beauty, reflected in the supple, smooth angles used in the movement. The dancers hand movements describe the adornment of the space around them. The movements breathe anticipation, happiness and mystery. The dance was enhanced by the colorful outfits that wrap around the dancers' bodies.

In Das Mahavidya, the dancers show many phases of femininity, including the fierce and destructive manifestations of her energy. This dance is based on the ten primal forms of feminine energy as embodied by ten goddesses in the Tantric Hindu pantheon. This work started with dancers carrying incense through the stage and a video explaining the ten goddesses. The video was helpful to set the stage so that later the audience could more easily see various goddesses being enacted, including one who cuts off the tongues of demons and another who cuts off her own head to nourish her attendants.

The work used active strength coupled with angularity, yet was also supple by turns reflecting the many forms of feminine energy. There were some moments I especially liked, including a long hold with one foot on the ground and the other held high behind her with one hand, the other hand outstretched in front. The work contained a kaleidoscope of postural patterns, one folding into the next. The dancers executed precise transitions from one pose and emotion to the next. Even the shadows were sculptural. Near the end the combination of moving dancers and moving image on the screen, both moving in a circle, was hypnotic.

In act III, Nayikas performed a jazzy take on Odissi entitled Glow. The three dancers were dressed in simple shirt and pants outfits. They used flowing movements set to words floating on the screen that celebrate the contradictory nature of the South Asian woman (although I suspect it doesn't have to be limited to women of South Asian descent, the themes being somewhat universal). The dancers' postures were evocative of classical Odissi, but were somewhat softer.

The final dance, Mokshya & Shloka, is a traditional ending to an Odissi performance. The work got a fast start. The groupings of four dancers flowed together, enhanced by rhythmic stamping that is characteristic of Odissi. I have been seeing a lot of Flamenco lately and the thought occurred to me that the two forms have more in common than one might at first suspect.

The work ended with the four dancers in a line from front to back of the stage, their arms describing the space above their heads.

Nayikas gave a confident performance in this, their third season. When their fourth season rolls around, I have no doubt they will present an equally strong and thought-provoking set of dances.

The company: Myna Mukherjee (artistic director, choreographer, dancer), Kirti Srivastava, Punchali Khanna, Shrooti Singh, Pavithra Vasudevan, Sunonda Samaddar, Aditi Dhruv, Piali Mukherjee (technical director), Ajoy Mani (video), Julia A. Jean (collaborator), Anuvab Pal (collaborator), Ibrahim IZ (collaborator).

Nayikas Dance Theater
Photo courtesy of Nayikas/Joseph Khakshouri

Nayikas Dance Theater
Photo courtesy of Nayikas/Joseph Khakshouri

Nayikas Dance Theater
Photo courtesy of Nayikas/Joseph Khakshouri

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