East meets West

IN its first presentation of Indian dance, the Festival has struck an accord between Shiva and Terpsichore with Mallika Sarabhai, herself a muse of East and West.

Having performed throughout the Western world and Asia, she has skilfully created a bilingual programme using English narrative and the language of Indian dance.

Rooted in divine service, this great traditional art-form with its mythical struggles and myriad stories often devoted to the God Shiva, the Dancing One, is eloquently described by Sarabhai and then performed in music, song and dance.

The Bharatanatym and 1,000-year-old Kuchipudi repertoire are thus elaborated and entwined with their prose and the intricate steps and gestures that enhance each phrase.

The artist is both dancer and actress and combines these gifts. Sarabhai shows she is a masterful communicator. She is sure to bring greater appreciation of Indian dance to both East and West.

Offering a double programme on consecutive evenings, Sarabhai moves from the mainstay of traditional dance to new themes of social awareness and dance structure. The latter defines the unique vocabulary of Indian dance, detailing the intricate movements of the eyes, the neck, the hands, fingers, feet and toes. Bands of light dissect the dancers' bodies in this unusual demonstration.

But, it is Sarabhai's dance about a young wife's suicide, Memory is a Ragged Fragment of Eternity, that creates an indelible impression. Confronting serious ills in Indian society, this master gives the traditional dance style new relevance.

Sarabhai's mother, the internationally acclaimed dancer, Mrinaline Sarabhai, passed down the historic dance forms to her daughter, and she in turn is expanding the art-form for future generations through such highly communicative performances.

Mallika Sarabhai, with dancers and musicians of the Darpana Academy, APA Lyric Theatre. February 18-19