I had a great opportunity to witness and document Odissi dance Spellbound performed by Sutra Dance Theatre, Malaysia at Alva’s Virasat 2012. Alva’s Virasat is a national level cultural program held every year at Shobhavana, Mijar.
Last year Ramli Ibrahim and his Sutra Dance Theatre group had performed at Alva’s Virasat 2011 with Vision of Forever Odissi performance. I had watched that performance only on TV and unable to capture photographs due to my busy schedule that day. So this year not to miss I kept all my work aside and attended, I am really glad about it as it was truly enthralling performance. I was able to capture over 500 good photos of the performance. I am trying to present select 27 photos in this part and others in the next part next week. Selecting them and reducing from such a large number to these few was a bigger task for me than taking those photos 🙂
I also had the opportunity to try out new Adobe Lightroom 4 beta which was released to public two days back. All these photos are processed using that software. It adds 2 more modules to the existing 5 modules, namely the photo book creator and the Google map for GPS location editing. There is a new white balance brush, develop modules are extensively revamped. All these changes in Lightroom made these photos much more processable. I was having a real tough time to get the color cast off due to varied color lights used in the dance. That variation is minimized due to the improvement in Lightroom 4. I will write an extensive review soon on the improvements in the Lightroom 4 in my future blog.
The name Ramli Ibrahim is synonymous with his Malaysia based Sutra Dance Theatre which has never failed in providing surprising, thought-provoking and often exciting Odissi dance recitals. Ramli Ibrahim himself is also synonymous with the invariable production of a strong original repertoire. An imaginative, sensitive and accomplished dancer himself, Ramli always attempts to break new ground in Odissi and this particular programme named Spellbound obviously had the same objective.
Spellbound, is billed as A tryst with the timeless beauty of Odissi… and consisting of five Odissi compositions originally choreographed by Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, rearranged into group compositions by Ramli. The five items were Mangalacharan – Saraswati Vandana, Mukhari Pallavi, Ashta Shambhu, Oriya abhinaya – Kadamba bane banshi and Aditya Archana. The presentation of all the items was good and in parts, even arresting, as expected of Sutra Dance Theatre. In my first part of photos I present the first 3 items namely Mangalacharan – Saraswati Vandana, Mukhari Pallavi and Ashta Shambhu.
The female dancers were notably good – their grace and sureness speaks well of their abilities as solo dancers too. For me this was heartening. The only slightly odd feature that stood out was the lower limb movements of the male dancers. Their legs moved with a degree of effeminacy, as also the exaggerated feminine swaying of the hips – beyond a degree this becomes uncalled for in a male dancer. Ramli’s dancing was obviously outstanding; his rich experience and aesthetic sense brought out an inner ecstasy, the joy in the persona of the dancer that is so fulfilling. In comparison, Guna – the other male dancer – gave a rather dull display. The power and depth which Guna is capable of and has demonstrated previously in his last years performance, was missing here, inexplicably.
An added issue for me was the execution of the Mukahri Pallavi, specifically Guna’s role in it. The character that Guna represented could not be communicated to the audience; it certainly left me confused and in spite of a plethora of movements and poses by this dancer, the message just did not get across. A misfortune, specially when the lucidity of a choreograph fails to fulfill its function! It is also clear that Odissi, derived from one of the most ancient forms of Indian dance, has a vast grammar. It does not need to be embellished by ballet movements to heighten its aesthetic appeal.
It is refreshing to see Suthra group was not using the stitched costume. Even though Ramli’s team has been criticized for skipping the oudhni (veil) worn by female dancers, I found the costume worn by them perfectly suitable for these dances without being vulgar. However, the absence of the taitha (Armlet) was glaring; this particular ornament adds much grace and appeal to the feminine form and I am wondering why the female dancers chose to do away with it!
Ramli Ibrahim, Guna were the two male dancers.The female dancers were Shivagamavalli, Michelle Chang, Abiramavalli, Thrisherna, Jyotsna and Shobhna Kumari Bag. Special mention must be made of Sivagamavalli and Abiramavalli, who were easily a cut above the rest.
Ramli Ibrahim has done commendable service to Odissi classical dance and its spread in South East Asia and many parts of the world. His fascination with Odissi has added a touch of exactitude to his inspired performances and thought provoking choreography. The future beckons with even greater promise, and I extend profound good wishes to him on the journeys ahead.