Theatre and Culture from Scotland, starring The List's Theatre Editor, his performance persona and occasional guest stars. Experimental writings, cod-academic critiques and all his opinions, stolen or original.
Sunday, 20 July 2014
The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble
Celebrate the female divine
FEATURE BY GARETH K VILE.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE SHIMMY 26 AUGUST 2011
"I dream a place where nothing exists, except dance. A place called Nrityagram."
Protima Gauri (October 12,1948 - August 18, 1998)
The dance programme of the international festival is dominated by works from the East: unfamiliar forms like shamanic Gut from Korea, or the precise excellence of the National Ballet of China not only represent how different dance can be around the world but that cliches about "primitive" performance have been destroyed by the cultural flow between nations. The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble are perhaps the most traditional entry in the EIF: their publicity emphasises the ritualistic and religious aspects of their choreography.
The NDE are more than a company. Under the guidance of their original guru, they have developed a philosophy that sets dance at the centre of spiritual practice. Based on the Gurukul tradition - the dancers live together as part of a co-operative community - the training goes beyond technique and into an entire way of life. And while ballerinas may find their lives are submerged into their discipline, Gurukul consciously engages every aspect of being.
The beautiful costumes and refined movement are placed at the service of the community and the gods. Rather than being the individual expression of a creator's vision, NDE gave praise to the Creator. Sriyah celebrates the goddess through a wide range of Indian styles, including Kathak, Odissi and Bharatnatyam.
There is a danger for western critics and audiences to exoticise foreign companies, to miss the subtle nuance of the dance's relationship to a culture, or simply ignore the sophistication of the choreography to enjoy a surface glamour. Yet the richness of Sriyah comes from its connection to the dancers' lifestyle and sincere religious convictions.