Sevens – Srishti
Srishti: Nina Rajarani Dance Creations
April 2, 2022
The Place, London
Photos: Bheem Adavikolanu
Numbers – or, in the case of the choreographer Nina Rajarani, one number in particular – is as viable a means of organising a dance programme as any other. To her credit, as well as that of her various collaborators (including co-composers Y Yadavan and Shammi Pithia; lighting and costume designers, respectively, Chris Cuthbert and Sandhya Rahman; dramaturg Lou Cope and, last but not least, four fine dancers), Rajarani delivers with Sevens a pretty consistently engaging evening’s entertainment. If the content of this new triple bill is rarely profound, the pleasures it contains do unfold smoothly. What’s more, the work on offer builds in strength, meaning and resonance as it goes along.
The chief manifestation of seven in the curtain-raiser ‘Seven Snags’ is the number of performers onstage: three musicians (the two cited above plus flautist Vijay Venkat) and the dancers Abirami Eswar, Mithun Gill, Sankari Mridha and Suhani Dhanki Modi. Everyone is stylishly clad in gossamer-like fabric in bright, warm shades like lemon, mustard, saffron and melon. Pithia is, initially, anchored centrestage being somewhat jazzy at a keyboard. Soon after each dancer has leapt into view, however, the entire ensemble starts to shift. The continual collective movement patterns, influenced by the spinning speed of kathak, are structured yet also loose, flighty and playful rather than rigorous or rigid. The relative instability of the dancers’ fleeting interactions is meant to reflect Rajarani’s consideration of modern speed dating and dating apps. The net effect is light, frothy and ultimately – and maybe fittingly, too, given the trendy inspiration – insubstantial.
Based on the age-old Hindu wedding ceremony ritual known as saptapadi, ‘Seven Steps’ is by necessity more concentrated. You could just about get away with calling it, to borrow from Western show biz parlance, a song and dance duet. Partners offstage as well as on, Rajarani and Yadavan commence the piece from a reclining position on the floor. This relaxed, intimate image of togetherness sets a tone. Shortly the pair rises and begins ambling about, aware they are being observed yet maintaining a connection through each ‘step’ or stage of this interpretation of the vows a couple entering into a committed union must make. Rajarani, fingers and feet dyed red and in cherry-red sari, dances with a gentle, occasionally flirtatious rapture in the bharatanatyam style. Her footwork may not be especially virtuosic, but she moves with thoughtful ease in response to Yadavan’s melodious, melismatic and sometimes layered vocals. Her manner is sweet and charming. Less expressive physically or facially, Yadavan’s voice is rightly the best channel through which to declare his ardour. The tenderness underscoring this deceptively simple work is palpable and authentic.
In a post-show chat Rajarani defined sin as something that arises from human beings’ unmet needs. ‘Seven Sins,’ the night’s finale, is her take on familiar traits – lust, wrath, envy, jealousy, gluttony, sloth and pride – typically referred to as ‘deadly.’ That cliched adjective doesn’t apply here. From the get-go Rajarani and her dancers realise each complex yet elemental state of being with the formal kinetic intelligence it deserves. Gill and Eswar are especially good in a tautly measured, sensually stylised opening duet. Sitting side by side on the floor but facing opposite directions, they appear gripped by a difficult but irresistible mutual need. But their dark desires seem to lead to denial, rejection and, once joined by Mridha and Modi, shared rage. Greed then festers among the group, segueing into mechanical repetition before finding release of a kind in slow, floppy, slumped-over (and vaguely amusing) ennui. The music, meanwhile, journeys from the brooding to the beat-driven to jauntiness before reaching for something powerful and even potentially epic as pride comes to the fore via a series of stamps, turns and strides. The result, over-all, is fairly seamless and impressively well-crafted.
Tuesday 5 July
Curve, 60 Rutland Street, Leicester LE1 1SB
Tickets / 0116 242 3595 / www.curveonline.co.uk
Monday 18 July
GemArts Masala Festival
Dance City, Temple Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 4BR
Tickets 0191 440 4124 / firstname.lastname@example.org