If you feel like taking a trip to New Delhi or Mumbai this summer, skip the flight and hop on the 6 train to Astor Place. There, at the White Box Theater at 440 Studios, Malini Srinivasan accompanied by Kadhambari Sridhar and Umesh Venkatesan will transport you not only to the Indian subcontinent, but also back in time to the second century, B.C. with their mesmerizing Bharathanatyam performance, Being Becoming.
At first, she’ll hide from you behind the translucent magenta curtain, where she will skillfully put on her make-up so her already beautiful eyes will dazzle even brighter. Then she will wrap the jiggling bracelets around her ankles. Next, she will weave flowers in her hair – and the curtain will rise – lifted by the other two dancers as if to invite the audience into a world none of us really know. For the next hour or so, the lithe and nimble trio clad in gold, blue and red iridescent costumes will tell us stories about a spiritual seeker, a woman in love and even about the Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati – all without a single word. The artists don’t need any sounds but the music and the changing staccato of its beat. The mastery of Bharathanatyam is being able to tell the story without speaking.
One of the oldest Indian classical dance forms, Bharathanatyam has a name as complex as the techniques it employs. In Tamil, a language spoken in South India, Bha- stands for Bhavam (expression), Ra- for Ragam (music) and Ta- for Talam (beat or rhythm) while Natyam means dance. So if Bharathanatyam looks unpronounceable, try Bharatha Natyam.
Having evolved from ancient Indian dancing, Bharatha Natyam is characterized by nrtta – the movement technique of complex rhythmic patterns and sharp and clear geometric shapes made by the dancers’ bodies. Another unique characteristic of this classic art form is abhinaya, the mastery of expression, and the dancers’ use of hand gestures and symbols to relate the story and their emotions to the audience.
There is a reason why the performance in called Being Becoming. It’s not just a beguiling title, made to catch your eye in the nearly 200 Fringe shows this year. The name takes its origin in the essential ideas of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, presenting the concept that a person can become one with the object of his or her desire or devotion. This idea, also popular in Indian poetry and painting, weaves through the performance pieces of the show: the spiritual seeker wishes to unite with Lord Shiva and the lovesick maiden wants to be one with Lord Vishnu.
Granted or not, their desires and explorations are a way to disappear in your dreams, and a form of meditation, perhaps. And so the dance goes on with its sharp and precise hand movements, the seductive head rolls and the gentle flutter of eyelashes followed by fervent looks up above for an ultimate solution for all the mortal and immortal ills – leading us through the wonders of Indian mythology and thousands of years of history.
Malini Srinivasan and Dancers
Choreographer: Malini Srinivasan
She puts on her make-up and becomes a classical Bharatanatyam dancer. With each dazzling gesture she transforms into a playful child, forlorn lover, or Ardhanariswara: half-man, half-woman. Join us on a journey where gestures create and each of us transforms.
1h 15m Local Queens, New York
Staycation: Overseas Adventure Ride the Rollercoaster of Love
VENUE #06: The White Box at 440 Studios
Sat 11 @ 2:30 Fri 17 @ 6:15 Sun 19 @ 9:15 Tue 21 @ 2 Thu 23 @ 9:15 Fri 24 @ 7