Day one of Indian Rhythm and Arts Association’s Gulaal was wonderful. We went essentially for Alarmel Valli’s performance, but were blown away by the second part of the evening – Nandita Das’s Between the Lines.
Valli, in keeping with the season, performed two pieces on spring and concluded with a Nritta Lahiri.
The upper part of her body was magnificent. Her adherence to the symmetry of Bharatanatyam with the precision of each movement was fabulous, as far as her torso went. What I truly enjoyed was the subtlety of her expression. Many great dancers today seem to me to be moving away from the Natyadharmi towards the Lokadharmi, making a perfectly beautiful dance distasteful to me. Valli’s portrayal of the ten rasas was beautifully done, with a gentle but distinguishable flow from one rasa to the next. Her shringara did not cross the limit (my idea of the limit) even once!
Yet, her lower body and footwork left much to be desired. The nattuvangam and mridangam seemed to do all the work that her feet were unwilling to do. The beauty of lines that captivated me about her upper body was totally absent in her feet.
Between the Lines was originally just a bonus because we were there anyway, but I’m so glad we were there! With little experience of drama, I can comment on nothing; I can only say that it was an overwhelming experience. The story was an old idea, but brilliantly rendered, with powerful dialogue that sometimes made that uncontrolled sob rise to my throat.
Let’s just say I left Amanora that evening full of words, images and thoughts from the play. We spoke of little but the play right through dinner and all the way home.