WORLD PREMIERE / India
Trinritya Sangam is a spirited collaboration highlighting three forms of Indian Classical Dance—odissi, kathak and bharatanatyam. The piece opens with Maha Ganapathim, a prayer for Lord Ganesh, God of Wisdom and Remover of All Obstacles. Dancers illustrate his attributes with poses and movements typical of each of the classical styles. The song says: Ganesh is the son of Lord Shiva, worshipped by Vashishta and Vamadeya, adored by Guruguha, shining with the brilliance of millions of Cupids. He is the tranquil one who exults in poems and dramas.
The second segment is a skillful performance of nritta—pure dance—showing us the similarities between the three forms as well as their unique movements. Odissi dancers are in yellow and red; kathak in pink, green and orange; and bharatanatyam in blue and red.
Here is a brief history and description of each form:
Odissi is the oldest surviving dance of those suppressed under the British Raj, reconstructed since independence. It’s known for its unique grace, rounded movements, sculptural poses and the way dancers juxtapose upper torso movements with strong footwork. Odissi has a vast language of feet and body positions, hand gestures, facial expressions, and head and neck movements. The costumes are stitched silk saris, worn with filigree silver jewelry and headpieces with tops representing the upper structure of the Odisha temples. All are from Odisha, where odissi dance was born.
Kathak, from Northern India, tells stories, illustrates poetry, and evokes deities. The form has both Hindu and Muslim elements. It evolved from medieval Hindu storytellers called kathakars to become elaborate performances in Muslim Moghul courts. Kathak dancers tell stories with nritya expression; and improvise with nritta—pure dance, rhythmically complex and abstract. In comparison to the other two styles, their hand movement, called hastas, are relatively simple. Costumes show influences from India’s historic cultures; Hindu-style lehnga skirt and short choli blouse, and Muslim-style dupatta scarf. The ghungroo ankle bells are a highly-respected instrument, an extension of the dancer.
Bharatanatyam’s inspiration stems from sacred Hindu myth and legend, and it is performed as bhakti, devotion. A dancer’s movement in space is mostly along straight lines or in triangles. The head and torso are independent units. Lower limbs create straight lines in space or two sides of a triangle, while upper limbs follow the lower, or weave circular patterns. Dancers wear a brilliantly-colored sari, tailor-fitted, with front-pleated cloth that opens like a hand fan. Jewelry and flowers outline the head, hair is braided, and eyes are ringed by collyrium to accent expressions. Fingers and feet are outlined in red to emphasize gestures.
Traditionally, kathak is performed to North Indian Hindustani music, usually improvised. Bharatanatyam is danced to Carnatic music, a form originating in temples, usually composed rather than improvised. Odissi is performed to odissi music, a blend of these two. In Trinritya Sangam, the music for the first segment is an orchestrated version of a Carnatic song. The second segment features a conversation, or jugalbandi, between Carnatic and Hindustani forms. We can hear Carnatic instruments, the lute-like veena and tall mridangam drum; and the Hindustani sitar and tabla drum.
Three Artistic Directors choreographed this unique performance for our Festival, each one bringing company dancers to perform one of the classical forms.
For Odissi: Niharika Mohanty, a renowned disciple of legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, is the founder of Guru Shradha, a premier Odissi institution in the US. Guru Shradha students also train under Guru Ratikant and Guru Sujata Mohapatra.
For Kathak: Antara Bhardwaj is a disciple of the late Pandit Chitresh Das. Her company, Antara Asthaayi Dance, formed in 2016, works with intermediate/advanced kathak dancers and strives to present kathak true to tradition while adapting and collaborating with other art forms to create new, inspiring works.
For Bharatanatyam: Navia Natarajan is a disciple of Gurus Padmini Ramachandran, Guru A. Lakshmanaswamy, and abhinaya exponent Bragha G. Bessell. Navia Dance Academy, which she established, is a highly selective South Bay bharatanatyam school in Vazhavoor tradition, emphasizing technique in pure dance and subtle, nuanced expression.
July 13 & 14
Artistic Directors/Choreographers: Niharika Mohanty (odissi), Antara Bhardwaj (kathak), Navia Natarajan (bharatanatyam)
Dancers: Riya Bhatia, Maya Devalcheruvu, Akhil Joondeph, Anya Khatri, Yamini Kumar, Sakshi Prabhu, Meera Suresh, Sandya Suresh, Urmila Vudali
Musicians: Mandar Khoje (sitar), Vishan Menon (tabla), Amit Ranganathan (veena), Aravind Ratnam (mridangam)
Photo: RJ Muna