Dunedin Fringe 2012|
Aananda – The Dance of Joy
Dancer/choreographer: Swaroopa Unni
at Globe Theatre, Dunedin
18 Mar 2012
Reviewed by Sharon Matthews, 20 Mar 2012
Aananda -The Dance of Joy, choreographed and performed by Swaroopa Unni, is my pick of the Dunedin Fringe Festival 2012 so far. In spite of a torrential downpour, the house was packed (in fact overflowing!), with an enthusiastic mix of dance aficionados and members of the local Indian community.
Swaroopa Unni has been a professional dance artist in India for the past twenty years, but this is her first - and hopefully not the last - production for a Dunedin audience. Aananda - The Dance of Joy is a moment out of time, classical Indian dance at its very best, lyrical, evocative and visually and musically expressive. Unni takes and transforms the rich traditions of Bharatanatyam and Kuchupudi classical dance forms with her own distinctive choreography, revealing the fresh contemporariness of an ancient art form.
This piece, a solo performance by Swaroopa Unni, is a combination of seven individual works based in ancient Hindu mythology. The dances begin with Vandanam, a dance in praise of Lord Ganesha - the god with an elephant head - and end with Mangalam, a 'salutation to the universe, the elements, the guru and the audience.' It is a mystical and spellbinding journey performed with considerable technical skill. A stand-out was Tarangamin, in which the dancer balances on a brass plate miming to a song from the Krishna Leela Tarangini, a text which recounts events from the life of Lord Krishna.
Understanding, perhaps, that she is dealing with a mostly uninitiated audience, Unni's programme notes clearly explain the important elements of her narrative progression from darkness and absence into joy. However, such is the depth of her empathetic interaction with the audience that these notes are merely an amplification of our instinctive understanding of the events she portrays. Unni is a very engaging performer with a vivid palate of expressive gestures that paint a canvas of life and beyond. Moreover, she brings to her choreography a feeling of joy, an everyday humour and a rare sense of devotion and dedication which seems to touch an inner core of understanding shared between the dancer and the viewer.
I regret the limited season of this production - one night only! I would urge all and sundry to experience this production. I look forward to the experience of future performances from this singular artist.
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