Jewelry is a mirror of the heart, wrote Coco Chanel. Renowned Indian dance artist Malavika Sarukkai takes up this thread in "Thari – The Loom", an enchanting and deeply imaginative work inspired by sari, the traditional garb that wraps a woman in layers of history, handiwork, culture and identity.
This 70-minute piece, performed in the USA on Friday and Saturday at the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center, is Sarukkai's first choreography for an ensemble, but given the artful intertwining of the six dancers (including Sarukkai), one would never have thought , It is clear that a firm hand thought through the precise synchronicity and harmony of style, design and rhythm.
Sarukkai is a master of the classical Indian dance form known as Bharatanatyam, but she has long stood out as an iconoclast and brings contemporary themes and motifs to her performances. Here it is here The dancers, wearing beautiful, pleated and tailored costumes in deep reds and reds, scurry across the stage, their clear, linear patterns reminiscent of the action of thousands of threads of a sari. The recorded sound combined traditional roles, billowing drumming with the rhythmic clanking of a loom.
The simple elegance of a sari, which is not tied to zippers, buttons or belts and is not associated with zippers, buttons or belts, offers a wealth of associations. "As a young dancer, the sari was a proclamation, a sense of purpose," a spokesman says. The garment, which gave its wearer confidence and dignity, eventually became an "emotion, an attitude of mind".
It was good to have this story because the movement was largely abstract. Sometimes the dancers made small, repetitive accents: light, quick jumps, with the feet wedged under the body, or square shoulders and gentle waists that turn like gems catching the light. Her softly persistent footwork knocked like a luxurious ornamentation. These and other changes in the dynamics and shapes of the dancers seemed to reflect the ornaments woven into a sari cloth. Stylized hand gestures or mudras and eye movements were more subtle, but no less impressive, traces of expertise that draw us into the life of the mind.
Sarukkai's eyes, especially in her solo in the heart of "Thari", expressed deep compassion and urged us to pay attention to every knick-knack. But we look for complicated reasons, or rather, because every polished muscle in her body commands it. One can rave about the flickering of emotions in her gaze, or the way she hisses her hands like aspen leaves in the wind, or how luxuriously she sinks to her hips, as if she too were woven of silk. But it is the interplay of these and other qualities that make a stage presence of unforgettable power.
Documentary filmmaker Sumantra Ghosal (who made "The Speaking Hand" on tabla maestro Zakir Hussain) worked with Sarukkai. His touch was especially evident at the end when projections of starlight points fell over the dancers. These bright dots multiply until they consume everyone, turn the stage into a brilliant galaxy, and dissolve matter into light.
"Thari – the loom" will be held at 19:30. Saturday at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. www.kennedy-center.org.