Monday, January 18, 2010

Odissi Dance Performance, Sunday Night

Last night I was out late, at an Indian classical dance performance.  The first one I've actually been to in nearly nine years here in India.  When I first came over, a couple of my friends at the time said "don't worry, we'll see lots of Indian classical shows" for both dance and music.  But well, none of the plans ever worked out…  Sometimes there'd be one and Prasad would say "it's from 9pm to 1am, and I won't be going to Aundh afterwards so you'll have to get back on your own" which didn't seem like a good idea.  Or other reasons we just never went.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this one.  It was an Odissi style performance.  The dancer was a disciple of a famous Odissi dance guru, who later became the master's daughter-in-law.  It was an annual performance put on for the anniversary of his death.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to keep the notecard sized "program" with their names...

My sister-in-law, Sonal, was the master of ceremonies, explaining the performance at the beginning and then giving an overview of each individual piece before it began.

The evening began with Sonal's cousin, Nitu, who is also a former coworker of mine at Tieto, and her sister and brother-in-law picking me up down at the end of the lane.  We went to my in-laws' house to meet up with my brother-in-law, Vinesh and niece, Shraddha, who went in a separate car.  We got to Symbiosis in Deccan at just about 5:30pm, and it was scheduled to start at 5:45pm.  After the parking we all went in and found seats just behind the "reserved" sign blocking the front few rows.

But things didn't start right away…  The hostess was waiting to see if more people would show up, since most years the auditorium is packed for this show, but this year it was little more than half full.

Once it started Sonal came out and explained what we were going to expect and introduced the dancer.  And shortly the dance began.

There were six (or was it seven?) numbers.  The opening and closing ones were more the dancer's prayer to a god, and while they were graceful and elegant I didn't really understand them.

The ones in between were more stories from Indian mythology and while I didn't know some of the stories, such as the one Nitu explained involved casting dice and gambling, I could recognize a number of movements as representing activities, and sounds that were clearly rain.  It helped, too, that Sonal introduced each one.

The one about the rain was the clearest, with the music and the dancer's movements most obvious, beginning with light rain and great, crashing booming of the deluge that washed everything away.

Even when I didn't quite understand it, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching.

At one point, though, I found if I sat with my feet crossed at the ankles I yawned and yawned and yawned, but if I kept my feet flat then I wasn't tired at all.  Shraddha, next to me, however, was a different story.  She was obviously bored and fidgeting horribly, completely unable to sit still.  The wooden armrest between us was a little loose and sometimes in her thrashing about she'd bash it into my side, not on purpose, I know she wouldn't do that.

At the beginning Sonal announced it would be about 90 minutes.  About 90 minutes into it she introduced one as "in the next piece" and Shraddha's reaction was a mumbled exclamation "shit!".  Nitu said this wasn't the most exciting or interesting classical dance performance and she's seen better.

But I really liked it.  I didn't have any other expectation so it was fascinating to me.

After it was finished Nitu and her family wanted to stop for dinner, but it was getting on to my bedtime so I went with Vinesh, Sonal and Shraddah.  Sonal invited some of her dance classmates, a couple of teenage girls, to join us since they had to go to Kalyani Nagar as well, and we squeezed all of us into the car.

On the way back the three of them discussed how perfect the dancer was, how exact she did "flips" and "frames" and other technical dance terms I wasn't at all familiar with, and how well her facial expressions went along with each movement and story, which was something I understood...

Afterwards, looking at the Wikipedia article, the repertoire listed was a very close match to what we saw, including the story of Radha.

So, if there's more of these on Sunday afternoons, not too late, and not too early, I'd be happy to go.

Well, here's a couple of pictures from Wikipedia...  This performance last night was strictly "no photography" and without a clear invitation, even if I'd brought a camera I don't think I'd be comfortable taking photos of a live performer who might be trying to concentrate...

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