Reflections on Shivam
Part of Samarpan Mahotsav, A Festival of Indian Classical Dance
Presented by Jaivant Patel Dance and Arena Theatre
Saturday 15 June
Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
Photos: Credit Matthew Cawrey
Bisakha Sarker reflects:
This year’s Samarpan festival in Wolverhampton was called Mahotsav (‘Great Festival’) and took place over two nights. On the first night, ‘Shakti’ featured female dance artists representing different Indian classical dance styles; and the second, ’Shivam’, brought seven vibrant male dancers presenting solo pieces in bharatanatyam , odissi and kathak.
I went to see ‘Shivam’ and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. As one audience member said, ‘it was a wonderful, uplifting, quality evening of dance’.
The dancers were at different stages of their career but all of them gave a focussed and sincere performance with grace and a good command of the stage. Interestingly, most pieces had a strong element of abhinaya, presented with clarity and dignity.
Sundaresan Ramesh opened the evening with a pure abhinaya piece. This was a brave decision, particularly for an audience who may not be familiar with the mythological references of the movements. His expressions were convincing and his performance had a light-hearted feel about it. The next item, by Vinod Nair, was a strong and confident performance in bharatanatyam with his own signature.
A breathtaking performance in odissi by Sooraj Subramaniam, full of grace and power in equal measure, ended the first part of the evening.
Following the interval we had the pleasure of seeing another array of new generation male dancers, Shyam Dattani, Jaivant Patel, Pranav Yajnik, Mithun Gill and Shyam Patel.
Shyam Dattani gave a graceful performance with a theatrical ending. Mithun came across as an emerging strong dancer. He used interesting props but they were not fully utilised. Pranav came alive with his second piece and his joy and exuberance lifted the spirit. Shyam Patel presented a bright and rhythmic piece. In the middle of this evening of high energy dance Jaivant’s piece added a few moments of tenderness.
Congratulations to Jaivant Patel Dance. Apart from creating this delightful evening of dance it has given the dancers a platform to come together, get inspired by each other, cultivate a sense of belonging to a dancing community and find a strong collective voice.
Shivaangee Agrawal reflects:
Jaivant Patel gave audiences in Wolverhampton a rare treat on Saturday, an evening that was special both for its programming of classical work, and its focus on male performers. Though the preceding evening of the Samarpan Mahotsav weekend had offered four female performers who might see each other as peers, this evening, Shivam offered up performers from a wide spectrum of experience. Sundaresan Ramesh and Vinod Nair began the evening with bharatanatyam, Sooraj Subramaniam brought us odissi, and we were then taken on an exploration of kathak with Shyam Patel, Jaivant Patel, Pranav Yajnik, Mithun Gill and Shyam Dattani.
Mithun and Shyam Patel seemed to stretch themselves with new developments in their practice: Mithun with his use of prop, costume and unusual movement vocabulary in a more conceptual work that he has choreographed with his Guru Sujata Banerjee; and Shyam Patel in his presentation of Pandit Rajendra Gangani’s complex and playful footwork. Jaivant and Pranav gave refreshing performances of abhinaya work, while Sundaresan and Vinod both offered neat technical lines, crisp footwork and light airy jumps.
The highlight of the evening was in seeing Sooraj Subramaniam and Shyam Dattani, who both elicited loud cheers and whoops from an audience that seemed rightly blown away. Sooraj presented two short pieces of odissi repertoire with the usual unparalleled levels of grace and poise. His pieces were completely devoid of gimmick or spectacle, and the choreographies felt simple and symmetrical. It is difficult to describe his dancing without defaulting to superlatives, but spins were simultaneously expansive and crisp, arms carved the air with both ease and strength, and his torso seemed to balance playfully on his lower body, shifting delicately from one side to another. Such was his technical precision that I was able to appreciate the detail in the movement of his eyes.
Shyam Dattani performed with a maturity and presence that also arrested the space. His piece ‘Udaan’ is choreographed by Guru Urja Thakore and while it’s no longer new, I felt Shyam infused it this time with impressive levels of dynamic clarity, confident technique and commitment. Fast movements would come to a sudden still with impeccable control, and there was no shying away from either complex footwork or slower expressive moments. Shyam offered up small treats during the choreography – an unexpected drop of the hand here, a beautiful lilt in his torso there, with well-designed lighting taking care of all these details. His performance was full of charm and I would go as far as to say, swag! The refinement in his performance allowed this shining through of his personality.
Despite the large number of solo performers, the evening kept us refreshed and engaged, with each work averaging seven to eight minutes. This may have been designed with accessibility in mind: Jaivant is trying to develop theatre-going audiences from an Indian population that is generally more engaged with community-centered events and unfamiliar with classical dance. However, I was torn between enjoying the variety within classical work and craving longer performances where I could have the chance to get to know the performers a little better. Hats off to Jaivant for such a memorable evening!