Skanda Ganapathi - Natraj School of Dance
2 July 2016, Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt
Reviewed by Mona Williams
Expressions of Beauty and Spirituality
The Natraj School of Dance which specializes in the Bharatanatyam classical dance form presented "Skanda Ganapathi". This performance was based on the themes of beauty, spirituality, and human striving towards the Divine; this exalted spiritual plane, the Divine, being represented by the Hindu gods Lord Sri Ganesha and the deity who possesses six heads, Lord Muruga. The dances also referenced other mythic tales of Lord Shiva, the goddess Parvati, and the gypsy wife Valli, all seamlessly interwoven in the production.
What awhirlwind of impressive, colourful costumes, bejewelled girls impeccably groomed, dancers ranging from excited tots to a highly disciplined med student, Lavanya
(back from study in Melbourne in time for the performance), and a final array of young boys performing the only male dance. They made this an evening to remember. Choreographically, the show was superlative. The wealth of sculptural poses, the precision of the rhythmic stomps and clinking of the ankle bells which echoed, the intricate staccto of the tabla, and the fluid stage movements in circles, lines, diagonals, entrances, exits, and many tableau, stamped each dance with vivid, visual individuality. The vocabulary of movements was extensive; the allusions to a peacock or elephant were distinctive, the footwork particularly quick and precise, hand-gestures were emotive, arresting, engaging and clear in its meaning; while the mood of the programme was exuberant, sometimes of solemn invocation but always wholeheartedly committed to the Dance.
A calm, articulate MC elaborated on the background of the Hindu beliefs and on the specifics of many dances, thus informing the audience and establishing the ambiance. The varied backdrop which featured pictures of the elephant headed god, or of ancient wall sculptures, was augmented by simple streaming background lights in reds, blues and ecru. Props, like a colourful umbrella to denote high status, were tellingly symbolic and sparingly used. Two children, in golden body paint, seated, posed as the main gods, was an inspired bit of theatre. Overall there was incandescent artistry; a notable elegance, an unmistakable finesse in the grace of the female dancers, particularly Anushka, Radhika and Lavanya. A tribute to the woman who taught them, the producer, director, choreographer and teacher, Mrs. Prabha Ravi.