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Robert Abrams
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The Trinayan Collective - Neel The Eternal Blue

by Robert Abrams
October 29, 2004
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012

The Trinayan Collective - Neel The Eternal Blue

Presented at
The Joyce SOHO
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY

Robert Abrams
October 29, 2004

I arrived at the Joyce SOHO with enough time for dinner, so I headed over to Public, located at 210 Elizabeth Street (www.public-nyc.com). The reasonably priced Chardonay was very smooth. If you are going to be a Chardonnay sipping liberal, this is the Chardonay to sip. Fiscal conservatives will approve of the generous glass size to price ratio. I paired it with the kangaroo appetizer, which was sweet with a tangy bite: well matched if unexpected tastes.

The Trinayan Collective's performance was also a well matched pairing of the traditional Odissi Indian dance with non-traditional narration and singing in English.

The show started with faint bells heard in the distance, slowly growing louder. The dancers took the stage. Rajika Puri, who narrated the show, presented an opening invocation. Ms. Puri was very focused as she set the Indian pantheon as a representation of the stages of life.

The show was also notable for the use of film projected at the start of each work. The images were abstractions of the theme of each section, such as fire and water. These images added to the richness of the show without distraction.

In Mangala Charan - Maha Kali Dhyanam the company formed two sets of dancers enacting poses. The choreography created fluid redefinitions of the space through the still dancers framing the moving dancers.

In Abhisarika Nayika - Rasomoyi Sri Kishori Bani Ray danced a maiden's evening tryst. The narration did a good job of framing the pure dance. Her expression was joyful and playful. I especially liked the vertical dimension of her movement in this regard.

Ms. Puri set the stage for the next work by explaining the poses of statues found in Indian temples and demonstrating each in turn. Never was removing a thorn from a woman's own foot so delicate.

In Kolabati Pallavi, one could easily imagine Kakoli Mukherjee, Alicia Pascal, Taiis Pascal, and Nandini Sikand as temple statues come to life. They danced with a good rhythm together.

At the beginning of Surya Ashtaka, Ms. Puri told a story of the sun god, Surya. With the scene appropriately set, it was easy to see Bani Ray's single undulation on the ground at the beginning of this dance as catching the warming rays of the morning sun. The work was filled with motionful pantomime, which is characteristic of Indian dance. Western dance, by contrast, tends to employ either motion or pantomime, so it is enjoyable to see a form in the middle of this continuum so well danced. It shows, moreover, that stillness to motion is a continuum, and not just a dichotomy. Bani Ray, of course, does stillness very well too, especially when she holds still with one leg in the air long enough to prove that such beauty is the result of tremendous skill. Stillness is also a form of movement because it comes from internal balance, groups of muscles working in dynamic equilibrium to hold the dancer just so. Ms. Ray was composed in each movement. Odissi is characterized by the body held in "three bend" postures. If one ever needs evidence that bent lines, and not just straight lines, can be beautiful in dance, this is it.

There was plenty of active motion in this work too. I love the way she spins on one foot and then slides into position.

Her cheeks were glistening from her exertion. Yet, even after such exertion, she can still stand still on one foot.

The work ended with bows facing the position Ms. Ray occupied at the start of the dance.

Act II began with Ms. Puri telling stories of Shiva, including how he incinerated Kama the god of love by accident and then brought him back to life as an invisible force.

In Ashta Shambhu, Alicia Pascal and Taiis Pascal wore contrasting white and green/gold pants with wide belts with silver jangling adornments, and a thick cluster of bells encircling each ankle. They danced well with emphatic movements.

In Love Song of the Dark Lord, Rajika Puri intertwined the original lyrics with English translations. The rhythmic tone of the sung English was a good match for the tone of the original. This performance showed that while Odissi is mostly pure dance for English-only observers, in its native context it is very narrative in nature. This performance showed that Odissi can be made accessible for English speaking audiences. It was a worthy experiment that should be continued.

The final work of the night, Moksha and Narayani Shloka, featured all eight dancers each wearing different colored pants. I noticed that the large circular patterns always seemed to travel counter-clockwise, which isn't the first time I have seen a connection between Indian dance and ballroom dance (the other time was at a friend's Indian wedding where one of the Indian songs would have made a perfect Foxtrot).

This work was filled with beautiful tableaux, the positioning of a few of them are shown below.

Finally, the dancers paid their respects to the space, to each other and to the audience.

Photos of the Trinayan Collective

For more on the Trinayan Collective, see www.trinayan.org.

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