Conversations with Tradition: An Evening of Classical and Contemporary Indian Dance

February 2004, University of Michigan Museum of Art

Sadhana Dance Theater and Bipasha Guptaroy presented a program that combined two traditional dance styles, Bharatanatyam and Odissi, with transitional styles that imbue traditional forms with a distinctly modern sensibility.

Bharatanatyam, from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and Odissi, from the eastern state of Orissa, depict the classical Hindu narratives of bhakti (perfect love) and dharma (perfect order) found in devotional stories and poems and the Indian epic literature. These narratives feature Krishna, the Celestial Musician; Rama, the perfect son and king; Shiva Nataraja, the Creator, Destroyer, and Cosmic Dancer; and Shakthi Devi, Shiva's consort. Sadhana Dance Theater performed a Varnum about Shiva, a Kirthana about Shakthi, and an Invocation to Ganesha (who is the offspring of Shiva and Shakthi). 

Madhavi Mai and Bipasha Guptaroy each offered modern interpretations of three poems by South Asian women. Mai's piece, South Asian Womenspeak, set the poems to original music, while Guptaroy's piece, Voices Within, featured a recitation of the poems. 

Lastly, Mai and Guptaroy collaborated on a two-part work based on the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore. Question uses Tagore's words to awaken sensibilities of anguish, and Deliverance 1 uses them to find strength and inner peace.

This program is dedicated in gratitude to Rukmini Devi, for keeping a rich dance tradition alive and for utilizing the form to express modern, personal narratives.


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