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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Nritya Darpan 2024

Nritya Darpan 2024


Performance Date:

Freeform Review:

I was looking forward to seeing Nritya Darpan 2024 for the first time, an acclaimed dance festival in New Jersey with feverish, almost childish excitement. The week of the dance festival I could hardly concentrate on my work, my house or my family. I checked twice, no, thrice that there was nothing on my calendar on that holiday weekend. I even pre paid for parking so that I would not have to waste time searching for one in crowded New Brunswick.

Nritya Darpan delivered and did much more than that. I looked spellbound at the dancers, each one seeped in the art of dance, having spent years and decades in becoming excellent, almost perfect in their art. For close to two and half hours I could not move my eyes off the stage as they lit it up with their fierce energy, heartstopping footwork and mesmerizing movement. The matching synchronicity with the music and lights weaved a story on stage through their creative bodies. I wondered at the incredible power a body has and how it can not only convey a story but do it with power, beauty and a whole lot of grace.

The beginning act of the Apsaras or celestial beings was impeccably crafted and choreographed by Shubhamani Chandrasekhar and Ramya Shankaran in the classical Bharatnatyam style. Their dance embodied three qualities that the Apsaras were well known for — Rhasyam or mystery, Rupam or beauty and Gunam or talent. They did this not only on stage but off stage as one of the beautiful Apsara decided to show us what being mysterious and talented was all about. She came near us, smiled, allured and attracted us with her smile, dance and sensousness. There was conversation without words.

The second act by Parul Shah was in the kathak and contemporary style where again I saw not only a superlative dance performance but a story being told through her dance. Her movements showed us her struggle to reclaim identity that was shaped and controlled by western constructs and her aim to disrupt the existing status quo. Once again, an artist shaping and making us question our collective thinking. 

Third act by Project Convergence had all of our feet tapping to its rhythm. A explosion of fusion of Bharatnatyam and Tap dance was brought to life in a fun and fast East meets West dance expression. The tap dancers with their intricate footwork and precise tapping to Indian classical music was a treat to my eyes, ears and mind. As the bharatnatyam dancers joined them, the group of four dancers thrilled us with their perfectly timed movements and then it looked like a beautiful synergy of one movement instead of two seperate ones. Again, a whole lot of creativity and experimentation brought these seperate styles together in a cohesive pattern. This was followed by another superlative performance by Aalokam Dance Company performing Chaiti and Shadjam in the Bharatnatyam style. The dancers told us the story of a woman upset with a bird who's screaming had driven her husband away with the backdrop of music by maestro Channulal Misra of the Banaras Gharana. Their second dance drama  was light and funny about three friends who meet young handsome men and their flirtations and gosspping and laughing that ensues after that. 

The piece de resistance was the final act by Mesma Belsare in the style of Shilpanatanam and choreographed by Maya Kulkarni. She channeled Jatayu, the eagle king of birds on stage through her powerful energy and movement. The entire auditorium was in pin drop silence. We saw the bird on stage protrayed by Mesma in all its form — the body, its wings, its beak. And the beauty of it all was its pathos and pain mixed with his devotion for Lord Ram that the dancer bought to life on stage. She showed us how Jatayu fought Ravan as he kidnapped Sita and died trying to save her. We felt for Jatayu in all of her dance moves. Again, awestruck how one solo dancer could bring this story to life on stage. A standing ovation for all the dancers was inevitable as we all stood up in unison showering our praise with applause and admiration. 

It will be a long wait till Nritya Darpan 2025. A year long wait but I am sure that IHCA-NJ will again deliver and pull us dance enthusiats back to our seats next year.  

Meghana Karanjkar


Photo Credit:
Photo by Kishan Jangam

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