Divya Ravi: Solo Bharatanatyam Recital
Solo Bharatanatyam Recital
The Bhavan, London
Saturday 19 March 2022
Photos: Pranita Choudhry
Divya’s performance inspires many emotions, but the ones that remain are those of love and longing. Strongly grounded in her technical knowledge, she takes us on an exploration of Lord Krishna through the eyes of various protagonists – his devotee, seeker, lover, and mother –through a traditional bharatanatyam repertoire – with each character as complex and layered as the next.
She presents five pieces, starting with one that describes Krishna’s attributes and beauty: the lotus-eyed one who is decorated with ornaments, plays the flute and dances on Kalinga (the snake). Her centrepiece, a varnam composed by Sivanandnam (one of the brothers of the Tanjore quartet), in Raag Kalyani and Rupaka Tala, then takes us through an unforgettable journey of a seeker longing to unite with Krishna, The moon to his night sky, yin to his yang, lyric to his song, all are uniquely presented and powerfully performed. Her ability to hold expressions for extended periods of time takes the audience on a deeper journey. She skilfully carves out the most minute of details in episodes: for example when she depicts the five horses (a metaphor for the five senses) running unrestrained, leading to chaotic sandstorms, being tamed by Krishna; or when tuning the veena to create melodies for Krishna.
We then saw two completely different worlds through the next two pieces: one of a betrayed lover who is heartbroken due to Krishna seeing another woman in ‘Yahi Madhava’, an ashtapadi in Raag Sindhu Bhairavi; the other of Yashoda’s pure and unconditional love for Krishna despite his behaviour in Jagadhodharana in Raag Hindustani Kaapi. As a betrayed lover, Divya’s versatility in depicting jealousy, anger, sadness, frustration, while moving seamlessly through each, was captivating. In her portrayal of Yashoda, she demonstrated adaptability, quickly changing between her roles as the narrator and Yashoda, able to create very distinct moments of transition. The story of Yashoda discovering the entire universe in Krishna’s mouth is very familiar to many and this could have felt hackneyed. However, Divya’s portrayal draws the audience in and enables it to experience this moment fully. The final item, ‘Chaliye’, a tillana, created an atmosphere of celebration with the dancer ending in a trance chanting for Krishna.
Throughout the performance, Divya showed a high level of energy and maintained her connection with the audience. Her straight lines and geometrical angles: the clarity of nritta, sat aptly on Mavin Khoo’s choreography – Khoo is known for his own rigour, innovation, and intense artistic expression. In terms of her abhinaya, there were various points at which one could easily slip into exaggeration: for example, when Yashoda discovers the universe in Krishna. However, Divya demonstrates a subtle restraint.
It was enjoyable to see her frequent interaction with her guru and musicians while dancing, which exhibited a certain ease with her characters, music, movements and tala. It also felt refreshing to witness the contrast in the vigorous jatis and leg movements, against the softness and intensity in her abhinaya. This met with enthusiastic applause throughout the evening. Divya’s intelligent use of the stage ensured no corners were left untouched, and the intimate space of the Bhavan allowed the audience to appreciate the stylised movements and expressions. The red and blue saree-styled costume with the pallu tucked at the waist pulled together the traditional aesthetic with a contemporary and innovative touch.
Sharan Subramanian’s beautiful vocals and the live music matched Divya’s technical prowess. It was evident the audience were absorbed and energised watching the dancer’s command of the traditional repertoire and her spiritual depth. For audience members unfamiliar with the language, narration in English, together with a demonstration, ensured inclusivity. All in all, the response from the audience was rapturous, one that was clearly trying to match up to the performance!
Choreography – Mavin Khoo
Nattuvangam – Mavin Khoo
Vocals – Sharan Subramanian
Mrindangam – M Balachandran
Violin – Balu Raghuraman
Divya Ravi is a bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and performer. She is originally from Bangalore, India, and is now learning and training with Mavin Khoo in the UK.
Pranita Choudhry is a writer with experience in learning and performing bharatanatyam in India and the UK.