A month on, we look back at Tattva which was staged at Goodman Arts Centre’s Black Box from 7 – 9 July 2017. Here’s our take on the dance production, which was bold and upfront in wanting to fuse bharatanatyam with non-classical dance forms, broken down scene by scene.
The entry of the dancers clad in blue and gold costumes was a beautiful start to Tattva. The only giveaway as to the fact that it was indeed a fusion dance performance was the music. The use of anklets and the choreography proved otherwise – edging towards classical dance. For those unfamiliar with the custom of paying respects to Lord Ganesha, the e-programme booklet explained what the Ganesha vandhanam unified with the alarippu meant. It was indeed a beautiful opening sequence that captivated the audience, leaving them wanting for more.
The second scene, depicting the element of the sky, presented a well choreographed dance piece accompanied with music that was vibrant and electrifying. We must admit that the loud music was rather overwhelming and intense. It definitely amplified the significance of the segment. The costumes did justice to transform the four female dancers into real-life apsaras.
Son of The Wind
This scene that was centred upon the mythological character Hanuman – an all powerful and strong mythical being – was the downside of Tattva. We felt that it lacked clarity in depicting the concept that Hanuman’s impeccable strength was bestowed upon him by vaayu, the wind element. The idea behind Hanuman being born, growing up young and innocent, getting lost in the wilderness and thereafter meeting Rama and being the key figure in rescuing Sita, was lost in the dance – just like how Hanuman himself seemed lost in the forest.
The dancer playing Hanuman could have been a little more confident and could have expressed “himself” more. The choreography for the background dancers who were representing the wind could have been better explored. It came across as a meek representation of the contemporary dance genre. The technicalities of the dance genre were lost as the audience tried to figure out what story the scene was trying to convey. We found ourselves questioning whether it was an issue of choreography or merely the poor execution of a well choreographed dance.
However, the flute piece that was used for this item was definitely this segment’s saving grace. Melodious, powerful, intoxicating and soulful. It might have been the only representation of the power of the wind – something that the dance failed to depict.
The hypnotic yet invigorating dance discussing Lord Shiva and Ganga, was a well-executed concept to exhibit the water element. The brilliant choreography was evident in the many formations throughout the dance. The dancers assuming the roles of Lord Shiva and Ganga were an equal match for each other. Powerful but not overwhelming. Graceful yet forceful. The shade of blue present in the costumes complemented the dance item very well, not forgetting the appropriate use of lighting to enhance the effects of the choreography. It was an elegant piece to end the first half of Tattva.
Like many others, we questioned the need for the interval, since the entire production was relatively short at about one and a half hours. The interval, which was obviously to facilitate the change of costumes, could have been better planned so that there was no unnecessary break in the sequences. On a more positive note, the dancers’ costumes after the interval were definitely eye-catching – a beautiful deep crimson, intensified by the gold base.
Earth as Her Womb
This particular piece was rather lengthy. But we had no complaints as it was simply captivating. We might have even forgotten to blink; such was the dance – packed with energy, dynamic and mesmerising. The dancers displayed such confidence during this particular item, especially the lead dancer. The accompanying music was stratospheric (pun intended). We must admit that the concept behind this item was very well researched and tantrically presented to the audience. To most, it might have been the highlight of Tattva.
Skies on Fire
We were initially puzzled as to why two high-energy items were performed one after another. However, Skies on Fire was beyond captivating to continue pondering on such insignificant issues. The ebullient music piece chosen, together with the spectacular choreography, which had incorporated Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara) yoga poses, explained the concept of the element perspicuously. Although the initial part of the item seemed a little chaotic, the dancers picked up momentum and pulled off a splendid performance. We daresay that they quite literally turned up the heat.
It was during the thillana segment that one could notice the different styles of each dancer. It was then that we understood that although they came from different dance backgrounds, each dancer had been trained to synchronise his or her style of dancing throughout the production. Minute aspects such as performing an adavu (a basic dance step in bharatanatyam) and even the placement of their feet highlighted their different backgrounds. Looking back, we realised that this difference in style was not at all obvious during the first few scenes of the performance.
Tattva boasted a beautifully crafted concept – kudos to the artistic directors for their creativity. It was also packed with talent and passion that was delivered entirely by a group of youths. Simply put, Tattva was a production that was far from amateurish, and has – without a doubt – the potential to reach greater heights.
Images courtesy of Mathan Raj.