A beginners guide to Indian classical dance. Words: Kelly Apter
rom The Guru to Burn/my Dreams. Indian
music and dance has finally found its way into
the L'K mainstream. The slow trickle which began with bhangra music and Bollywood blockbusters has developed into a monsoon. and we're soaking it up. But lest we forget where it all began: the International Festival is going back to the origins of Indian classical dance. A short series of performances at the Royal Lyceum. each preceded by an informative talk. will leave us well schooled in the art of Kathak. ()dissi. Manipuri. Kuchipudi. Bharatnatyam and .‘Vlohiniattam -— or at the very least we‘ll be able to pronounce them properly.
The six dance styles are all steeped in history. having germinated over the past 2()()() years — and they're still evolving today. Although the term ‘classical‘ means traditional over here. in India it can just as easily be applied to a work created yesterday. International Festival director Brian McMaster searched long and hard for the ﬁnest exponents of each dance form. one of whom is dancer/choreographer Madhavi Mudgal. Trained in Kathak and Bharatnatyam at her father's cultural institute in New Delhi. Mudgal later switched to Odissi. which she‘ll perform here in Edinburgh. All of the styles have been shaped by the area they originated from — with location. weather and agriculture playing a part. But there are some similarities.
‘Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam share quite a few movements.‘ explains Mudgal. ‘Whereas Manipuri is completely distinct and ()dissi has influences of both the north and south. because geographically it comes from between the two. But the eyes are important for every style. and each dance has a particular mode of dress. from the hairstyle and head—dress to costumes. textiles and jewellery.‘
Six shows. three days. one fascinating culture. But if nine hours of dance seems a little excessive. here‘s a layman’s guide to all the styles so you can pick and mix (although booking for all six will get you a whopping 5092 off the ticket price):
Anyone lucky enough to see the wonderful Akram Khan in action will already be familiar with this particular style. Modern Kathak is more concerned with abstract rhythm than storytelling. but originally it portrayed moments in the life of Krishna. Improvisation. both by the dancers and musicians. gives this style a fun edge.
‘The complete opposite of Kathak.‘ says Mudgal. ‘lt's a very subtle. gracious and lyrical form. rather understated.‘ ()riginally danced by little boys dressed as girls. the new improved ()dissi features more intricate gestures and focuses on love and sensuality.
This style has its roots deeply entrenched in a remote mountainous area of north east India. where it plays a large part in everyday life. As Mudgal explains: ‘Manipuri is danced only for devotion and is part of any celebration — at weddings. births and deaths everybody comes and dances.’
Originally a dance drama performed only by men (including the female roles). today both sexes get to join in the fun. Often very long. the dramas were broken up by moments of light relief in the form of circus-style trickery. such as dancing on plates.
The most popular of all the Indian dance styles. Bharatnatyam has been exported across the world due to its beauty and accessibility. ‘It‘s mainly performed solo.‘ says Mudgal. ‘And has a very elaborate system of facial expressions and glorified hand gestures.‘
()1in ever performed by a woman. nmliinr'arram literally translates as ‘dance of the enchantress‘. ()riginating from one of India's hottest regions. the moves are soft. slow and languorous.
Indian Classical Dance, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Sat 24-Mon 26 Aug, times vary, 25-215.
22 Aug—5 Sep 2002 THE LIST FESTIVAL GUIDE 53
Make all the right moves
I Indian Classical Dance This short but very sweet season presents a wonderful opportunity to experience six different forms of Indian dance. Prepare to be educated and inspired as you learn the finer points of Kathak. Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam and Mohiniattam. See preview. Royal Lyceum Theatre, 24— 26 Aug, times vary, 25—275.
I Such Stuff A: we are Made Of Incredible Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues performs this strangely wonderful trompe I'oeil. Expect a spectacle and you won’t be disappointed as eight playful and highly accomplished performers mesmerise and tantalise. See review. St Stephen '3, 558 3853, until 26 Aug, times vary, £7—E9.
I Ful Acclaimed Spanish dance troupe Nats Nus Dansa present this self-effacing and highly amusing look at the ‘art of living' in the face of constant technological changes. Get ready to be captivated as they merge the innovative use of lights. video clips, music and text to create this wonderfully inspired mathematical game. See review. St Stephen ’3, 558 3853, until 23 Aug, times vary, 27—89.
I héétre-élévlslon The darling of France’s contemporary dance scene, made his festival debut in 1999. This year he frees the imagination with what has been dubbed one of the most elitist shows of the festival. Lie back and enjoy the ride. E/F, Dunard Library, the Hub, 473 2000, until 37 Aug, Qam—l 7 pm, £5.
I Bhukham and Sarpagatl Daksha Sheth Dance Company are visions of grace, strength, ﬁre and deep sensuality in this magical production merging classic dance and modern innovation. St Stephen’s, 558 3853, until 24 Aug, times vary, £9 (£7).