Raadha: The search for nothing

Three pieces, part of a dance festival, organised by Raadha Kalpa, fails to impress Veena Basavarajaiah.

Raadha 2010, an annual dance and collaborative arts festival was organsed by Raadha Kalpa between the 29th of October and 15th November across various venues in the city.

Raadha Kalpa, founded by Rukmini Vijayakumar, a Bangalore based classical and modern dancer and choreographer, is an organization dedicated to the promotion of art and culture through performance, teaching and artistic collaboration. The Indian traditional ideals are communicated in Bharatanatyam, maintaining the purity of the classical form, and utilizing innovation within the classical context.

Rukmini, one of the most talented artistes of the city holds a degree in Modern dance and Classical Ballet from the Boston Conservatory. She is also a brilliant actress who is currently doing her MFA in Bharatnatyam under Padma Subramanyam at the Shastra University.

Radha 2010. Pic Courtesy: Raadha Kalpa Dance company.

The festival had Bharatanatyam pieces, modern dance performances and performances where dance shared space with poetry, theatre, painting, music and folk idioms. Spread across various venues in Bangalore, the festival engaged audiences across ages and genre.

The three pieces presented at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore on 29th of October as part of Raadha 2010 were Catch, Raadha Rani and Trouvaille. The first half of the performance was rooted in the classical form of Bharatnatyam with a few Karanas (series of movements inspired by the temple sculptures) woven into the choreography. It fell short in conceptualization and movement exploration.

Catch was a mere movement translation of a ball game between Krishna and gopikas. The compositions of Chitti Babu’s album ‘Temple Bells’ was used for all the pieces. Though very melodic, the music was not apt for dance choreography and added to the monotony of the performance. Explanations between sections of dance pieces was irksome and unnecessary.

The second half of the performance named Trouvaille translated as ‘to find’ in french was a modern dance piece. An experimental work that explores the concept of Raadha who is in search of Krishna or ‘the aatman’ – a search for oneself. The music was harmonious with vocals by Pallavi Arun and Mahesh Swamy, on the flute and the veena along with Varun Pradeep on the Keyboard. The classical music was rendered with a contemporary touch as the musicians improvised with the dancers.

It was a piece based on six randomly chosen poems by different French poets that revolved around the concept of search recited by Aishwarya Chaitanya. The six movement pieces explored the poem’s emotional content. This contemporary piece did not impress the audience due to inadequate research and loosely woven improvisational structure. The dancers looked more like melodramatic divas sashaying across stage with no idea of what was being recited in a different language.

Radha 2010. Pic Courtesy: Raadha Kalpa Dance company.

The performers of the evening included Rukmini Vijayakumar, Parshwanath Upadhye, Ramya Nair, Alice Bordoloi, Sowmya Jaganmurthy along with students of Raadha Kalpa. The well trained dancers moved more like models displaying their clothes and jewelry with choreography that failed to showcase their talent, strength and dancing skills. While Radha Rani failed to go beyond the oriental exoticism coupled with a lack of experimentation in movement vocabulary and choreography, Trouvaille, the modern dance section was an object of ridicule in the name of collaboration using literature from a foreign language.

Raadha 2010 aimed at making dance an accessible medium to all sections of the society, reaching out to the audiences on a personal level. However the performance at Alliance Francaise was not the perfect showcase of Rukmini’s dancing and choreography skills. The expectations of the audience to be taken on a journey of introspection with the concept of Raadha were not met. The performance failed to go beyond the superficial exterior and presentation.

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