to you by
New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women
and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review 2, 10-28: Slaves to the Rhythm
Shivalingappa Beats it
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider
New! Sponsor a Flash!
PARIS -- I don't know
about your Tuesday night, but mine started with the Belgian man
from Gent singing from the piano inside his van on the Place des
Abbesses and ended with a man from who know's where chasing me down
a dark Montmartre street not far from the Moulin Rouge intent on
harming me. In between there was Shantala Shivalingappa at the Theatre
de la Ville aux Abbesses, an Indian dancer in the Kuchipudi mode
intent on giving thanks for the simple blessings still ours for
the asking even as the world hovers on the precipice.
Normally I avoid concerts
in the traditional Indian mode, not because it's not my cup of tea
but because I'm not an expert, and, notwithstanding the New York
Times's appointment of John Rockwell as its new chief dance critic,
neither the artists nor the audience are served by uninformed critics.
I gave myself an exception in the case of Shivalingappa simply because
she knocked my socks off in Pina Bausch's most recent work, "Nefes" ("Breath") last June at the Theatre de la Ville
- Sarah Bernhardt. In addition to the precision and articulation
in her fingers, which we know from other Indian forms, Shivalingappa
added -- in her Tanztheater Wuppertal appearance -- flight.
This also turned out
to be the case in Tuesday's Abbesses concert, in which Shivalingappa,
accompanied by a live musical ensemble, gave the Paris premiere
of "Shiva Ganga," an evening of choreography Kuchipudi school or
style. (Most of the choreography was by her, except for the opening
sun worship, by Master Vempati Chinna Satyam, and a dance inspired
by the god Ganesha by Kishore Mosalikanti.) Landing on plie -- ouch!
-- or ending the evening simply spinning lyrically, back and head
hunched, in a small circle -- she was feather light.
But what stood out in
"Shiva Ganga" was the mutual respect and relationship between music
and dance. Much as in a Flamenco concert, the most intriguing dynamic
going on here was not necessarily the one confined to the dancer-choreographer's
body, but the one circulating between her and the ensemble of five
musicians, including two soloist singers, a flautist, a percussionist
and someone (like his instrument, unidentified in the program as
far as I can see) on a string-like instrument that produced the
But by far the heart
of the evening, rhythmically, musically, choreographically arrived
with the extended play "Talamelam." If you've listened to Sheila
Chandra -- specifically, "Speaking in Tongues I" and "Speaking in
Tongues II" from "Weaving My Ancestors' Voices" on Real World --
or seen Sean Curran's 1999 "Symbolic Logic," set to remixes of the Chandra recordings,
you know the type of rhythm excursion we were taken on here. In
fact, as Chandra points out in her liner notes, the sound and syllables
of the musical composition relate not just to the mrdingam and tabla
instruments, but "draw upon the patterns of rhythm used in South
In her program notes
for the evening's musical and choreographic riff on this theme,
Shivalingappa notes, "If melody is the body of Indian music, rhythm
is its heart. In India, one says: 'Melody is the mother, and rhythm
is the father' of the music. It's the same for dance. The rhythmic
system, tala, is an independent discipline, with a complex
and subtle technique, finely developed. In effect, the innate mathematical
sense of the Indian spirit endows it with a great rigor."
All forms of classical
Indian dance have pursued the tala rhythm, each developing
its personal language, Shivalingappa explains. For the form she's
schooled in -- Kuchipudi -- these investigations take the form of
rhythmic variations in the voice and on the percussion instruments,
a game or conversation in the rhythmic language, and a conversation
which finishes with a dialogue between the dancer and the mrdingam
player. Or, as she puts it, "The beating of the feat respond to
the virtuosity of the fingers." This conversation gives the dancer
the opportunity to demonstrate the different positions of the Kuchipudi
"Talamelam," the segment
on Tuesday's program which featured this conversation, began with
a musical section created and directed by Savitry Nair and navigated
by the rhythmic creations of B.P. Haribabu. Like the vowels between
the consonants that book-ended his emissions, this pure music section
was elongated -- not just a musical introduction to a dance but
a work of virtuosity in its own right. When Shivalingappa entered,
the responses in her feet -- as elsewhere in the program -- demonstrated
that for this form, anyway, all muscles and landing surfaces of
the feet are called into service. Sometimes she balances on the
balls, sometimes on the toes; sometimes her feet are simply flat.
At other junctures, she arches both feet while maintaining the balls
and toes on the ground, then bending at the waist and looking
up mischievously at the musicians. In fact, it's this personal regard
-- toward her collaborators in this section, and in winking frontal
asides to the audience throughout the program -- that make dance
like this such a tonic in a European environment too-often dominated
by disinterested post-modern dance.
Before I saw this dance,
I was impressed by the musicality of Curran's effort to the similar
Chandra chants, but there's a difference between dancing on the
surface of the music and engaging it's soul, and Shivalingappa and
the musicians taught me that.
The only miss, for me,
came later, when Shivalingappa squeezed her feet into and balanced
on a wobbly disk-shaped basket at center stage; the awkward way
in which she shuffled it forward was the one note lacking grace
in the entire evening, a 'prop' dance we could have done without.
and her musical collaborators reprise "Shiva Ganga" Saturday at
8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Theatre de la Ville aux Abbesses.
Go back to Flash Reviews