De Volkskrant, Den Haag – New India

October 4th, 2011.

New India
With choreography by Mayuri Boonham (Sivaloka, Ghatam) and Revanta Sarabhai (LDR). Korzo Theater, The Hague.

Recent graduate choreographer Sarabhai breaks open the language of Indian classical dance.

How freely do you deal with tradition? The greatest value of the New India dance program, which kicked off the Hague India Month last weekend, is that it gave us two totally different answers. The choreographers Mayuri Boonham and Revanta Sarabhai, both working out of England, showed us something with the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam with which they grew up. Inadvertently they show exactly why one translation results in “dead leaves” and other has potential. With the room smelling of Boonham´s heavy incense and the Indian sounds of ´remix duo´ Gaurav Raina & Tapan Ray, what you see is a stretched version of Bharatanatyam. Postures and movements are as it were isolated and subsequently in other sequences and tempos, stuck back together. The original vocabulary remains very recognizable, with the elongated neck, angular arm-lines, expressive hand gestures, rhythmic footwork with the outward curled toes, the pious smile toward the unknown.

But whether the four dancers are now in silent poses along a diagonal, circular or sculptural form, one does not let go of the notion of a showcase somewhere between gymnastics and acrobatics or yoga. Boonham shines in England nailing success on the road, but her language is far from complete. It is like they are imprisoned in the straightjacket of rigid, strict Bharatanatyam from where they (gently) rattle the gates.

The recently graduated Sarabhai does not suffer from those ports. He starts on a blank sheet and looks from there for what he needs – from Bharatanatyam, but also from literature, modern technology, from within himself and others. Boonham and he incomparably have pure dance ambitions and concerns, but he shows an openness and candor that they can have.

In LDR, his graduation performance that he was fine tuning at Korzo, he performs along with percussionist Sarathy Korwar on stage. The two friends – in jeans, with backpacks and a laptop – work on their new show, about long distance relationships. Sarabhai recites Indian myths about desire and the pain of longing for love, swoons like in a Bollywood film as he thinks of his own LDR and Korwar choses nicknames for “So you think you can write a love letter.” Meanwhile, at every turn Sarabhai’s phone rings. He may make beautiful art about love, but his girlfriend misses their contact.

Sarabhai pulls much out of the closet – even video messages in Facebook-style, where others talk about their loved ones – but particularly nice is how he uses dance. He uses movement – in short solos, in fact very traditional, on poetry and emotion transfer. On the other hand, he breaks the sign language of Bharatanatyam open and mixes it with gestures of telephoning and typing. Of sacred respect, he has no problems.

-Mirjam van der Linden



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