Dazzling performance of Indian Odissi Dance by two Malaysian star dancersDanspubliek on 11.Nov.2011 11:06
Sutra Dance Theatre: RasaSutra
Dazzling performance of Indian Odissi Dance by two Malaysian star dancers accompanied by Indian live music.
On October 27th , 2011 in The Hague Korzo
On October 28th , 2011 in Amsterdam Tropentheater
On October 29th , 2011 in Antwerp Zuiderpershuis
On October 30th , 2011 RASA Utrecht
By: Roni Verstappen
Photography: Marcel van Beek
Performing arts from the Southeast Asian peninsula Malaysia is rarely to be seen In European theatres. The end of last October an opportunity arose. And what kind of a performing art! The peninsula, bordering and resembling Indonesia, is home to fascinating, original dance cultures, of which some are threatened with extinction. The Main Petri, Menora, Makyong, Javanese court dance related Malay rites, Iban headhunter dance rituals in Sarawak, the Orang Asli with shamanistic ceremonies movement etc.
The Malaysian population is truly multicultural. Caused by the influence of the former British rulers, there are three major ethnic groups to be noticed; the Indonesian alike Malays, the Chinese and the Indians. All three form the mixed culture of Malaysia. Ramli Ibrahim, artistic director and premier dancer established decades ago his in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur based Sutra Dance Theatre. It has the structure of a private education institute and ensemble training and delivering top dancers from multiracial descent, raised in East Indian Odissi dance.
Belonging to the Malay population, which is Islamic, Ramli studied pre-Islamic dance arts that may have influenced Malaysia's past. Ramli and his Sutra Dance Theatre successfully fought for national and international recognition during times when fundamentalist movements occasionally ruled contemporary Malaysian politics. The group tours worldwide for many years and is sought after. Renowned for their refined interpretations of Odissi with Malaysian and contemporary influences Sutra plays annually in the lion's den: the theatre and festival world of India.
Odissi is one of the seven major classical Indian dance forms. Odissi was originally a ritual temple dance performed by Mahari in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. Later it was performed in the courts of princes and subsequently in the royal courts and ultimately for the common people. The present revival of Odissi is based on the traditional positions in ancient sculpture art. Odissi is characterized by the use of 'mudras', esoteric hand and finger positions, fluid movements and static postures of aesthetic beauty and grace. It is believed to be between 2000 to 4000 years old.
The dance appears very erotic and is profoundly interwoven with the ancient spiritual, liberating Hindu system of Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. Yoga positions pervade the Odissi movement vocabulary. Within the body a balance is constantly sought between the masculine and feminine, the energies of Ida and Pingala. This is expressed by two significant dance postures. The first is called Chowka, a powerful approach based on Shiva's square Tandavo energy in honor of Lord Jagannath, an especially in Orissa venerated wooden ancient god with round eyes. The second is Tribungi an opposing physical posture in which soft Lasya energy associated with Shiva's wife, Parvati reflects femininity. The latter energy achieves a balanced asymmetry in the entire upper body by means of an 'S' curve.
The dance duets and solos Sutra performs are jewels of an Odissi dance master, the late Guru Debaprasad Das, rarely performed today. The Sutra Dance Theatre in Kuala Lumpur is a wonderful surprise of top artistic level. One of the notable performers is the Malaysian beauty of Indian-Chinese parents, dancer January Low. She danced impressively next to Ramli during the Rasa Sutra program in the Netherlands and Belgium. Today they both belong to the most spectacular performers of Odissi. Here they received standing ovations and a cheering audience. Low belongs to a rare breed of natural dancers. Such precision, refined expression, musicality and perfect control presented with a dazzling appearance. Great combination with the powerful stage personality of Ramli Ibrahim, also a detailed performer of the first order. Ramli has an equally youthful image as his dance partner and younger pupil January Low.
The accompanying, uplifting music of five virtuoso musicians from Bubaneshwar, Orissa makes the 70 minute show into a hypnotic experience. The spectacular Mardal (a double sided beaten drum) of Guru Dhaneshwar Swain, the inimitable Ukkutas (vocal "rap") and Manjira (finger bells) of Guru Gajendra Kumar Panda with the ecstatic flute waterfalls by Abhiram Nanda, the ornamental phrases of Snapneswar Chakraborty's sitar with mesmerizing vocals and harmonium from Laksmi Kanta Guru Palit make this performance already only because of the music a sensory feast of inspiring quality.
The sung poems in honor of Hindu deities remain unforgettable. Rich in dynamics, non stop surprising. Likewise, the perfectly and tastefully choreographed dances will make Western viewers immediately notice how powerful music and movement are able to interact rhythmically and melodically. An interaction which nowadays could seldom be witnessed in such intensity on our European stages. RasaSutra is a moving and exhilarating 70 minutes high class dance ritual, immaculately performed. Very rare. Make sure you are there next time; you will not easily forget this.
Kantor Pos takes cutting edge dance productions from Asia to theatres in Europe. For more information see: www.kantorpos.nl.