Bharatam: An Inspirational Solo Journey Through Dance

Mary Hopewell Theatre, Dunedin

02/10/2009 - 03/10/2009

Southern Ballet Theatre, Christchurch

08/10/2009 - 11/10/2009

Production Details

Experience the mastery of the world class performer Vivek Kinra, as he unfolds the mysteries of the Indian classical dance form Bharata-Natyam. As part of his celebrations to mark twenty years of successful performance in New Zealand, Vivek Kinra will bring his critically acclaimed solo dance show of Bharatam to the South Island in October 2009.

Kinra will take his twenty year celebration to Dunedin on Friday 2nd October and Saturday 3rd October and then will perform in Christchurch from Thursday 8th October through to Sunday 11th October as part of the Body Festival. Bharatam was first performed in Wellington in 2007 to critical acclaim and Kinra is looking forward to enchanting the Dunedin and Christchurch audiences with this magical experience of pure dance that transcends cultural boundaries.

Writing in the DANZ quarterly in 2007 Ann Hunt wrote: "At times the turn of his head or the lift of a perfectly placed arm, filled the eyes with tears. His arms resembled arrows, never missing their mark, and gravity held no claim on him."

Enjoy the best this dance form has to offer with Kinra taking you on a magical and dramatic journey through the wonders of the dance form Bharata-Natyam. This sophisticated, dynamic and rhythmic art form involves dance, mime and drama, together with swift and rhythmic percussive footwork.

Kinra will convey complex emotion and thoughts through intricate hand gestures, body movements and facial expressions. Kinra commenced his celebrations in Wellington in July where he performed Anand: Joy In Motion, a spectacular show accompanied by 30 dancers from his Mudra Dance Company. Writing in the Theatreview Dance Critic Lyne Pringle says "Tears well in my eyes during this dance, I am moved by the exquisite beauty. The final image of the traditional Shiva pose is so beautifully lit and sculpted by the dancer that it is like seeing a moment of stunning transcedent perfection – lucky audience!"

Take the opportunity to see Kinra live in this stunning performance.

The Mary Hopewell Theatre,
Otago University College of Education, Union Street East, Dunedin.
Friday, 2nd October – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 3rd October – 7:30 p.m.

Southern Ballet Theatre,
Arts Centre, Christchurch.
Thursday, 8th October – 7.30 p.m.
Friday, 9th October – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 10th October – 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, 11th October – 4:00 p.m.

Ticket Prices:
Waged $22
Concession $18  
Group (6 +) $16

Booking Information:

Ticket Direct: (03) 4778597 or
0800 224 224

Court Theatre: (03) 9630870 or
0800 333 100

Rich and intricate

Review by Dr Mark James Hamilton with Shayne Panayiotis Comino 08th Oct 2009

Hoping to convey the magic of this show to prospective audience members, I took along my colleague Shayne, who knew much less of the idiom than I. Here I frame some of his reflections. 

Vivek’s performance offers a perfect introduction to bharata natyam – South Indian classical dance. The programme offers a selection of quite differing items. Each is prefaced with a narration of the theme to be addressed, illustrated with the key gestural language that will be used. Though Vivek’s bharata natyam has enough complexity to delight a connoisseur, he gives a novice audience enough information to readily appreciate and enjoy the pieces to be performed.

Vivek’s solo presence holds the stage completely. His confidence is radiant and he engages the whole audience. Intimacy in performance has become somewhat of a cliché, but Vivek achieves that very kind of rapport. He is a committed narrator – personal to the extent that Shayne was reminded of having a bedtime story told to him!

Vivek is also an actor. In his penultimate item, he embodies fully Nandi the bull, on which Lord Siva travels. From the inside out, he takes the character into his body. He sinks down into a stance to convey the creature’s weight, and then extends out his limbs to elaborate his majestic presence. He dances as a bull very well might dance: grounded, bold, and resilient.

The concept of Ardhanareeshwara – the half male and half female god – blew Shayne’s mind away. Vivek presents the left side of his body, as the woman. He uses the flourish of his hands and the airy floating lilt of his body to convey a dreamy, seductive femininity. The female portrait takes time; it is indulged. The masculine is abrupt and grounded. Chest to the fore, face locked tight, chin a little gruff. Vivek presents his right side of his body, with a stamp of his foot.

Shayne admits he got a little confused at times during this rich and intricate performance. But, he tells me, he sat back, let Vivek carry him away into a dance form that may not be familiar, but fully commands attention.

Vivek is the most experienced bharata natyam practitioner we have in New Zealand and his standard of performance and spirit is remarkably high for an artist who has lived so long away from his homeland. Take this opportunity to experience a dance form that is truly limitless.
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Outside-in dualities

Review by Jonathan W. Marshall 04th Oct 2009

Vivek Kinra is New Zealand’s premier exponent of the dance-drama form Bharat-Natyam, teaching the style and presenting productions with his Wellington-based company Mudra since 1990. Whilst several Classical Indian dance schools and organisations exist in Australasia, such longevity is rare, even Chandrabhanu’s Melbourne-based group folding in 2000.

Kinra’s latest production, simply titled Bharatam, is a retrospective made up of seven short pieces choreographed by Kinra as well as by senior Indian artists from the Kalakshetra school (Krishnaveni Lakshmanan and Adyar Lakshman), where Kinra himself trained.

While the roots of Bharat-Natyam date back to Hindu ritual dances and temple practices of pre-medieval India, it is, strictly speaking, a modern form, its current, highly codified gestural language only being established and then "purified" of other, less visually precise physical accents in the early 20th century—a process in which Kalakshetra’s founder Rukmini Devi was instrumental.

Kinra’s work is therefore notable for its extreme fidelity to unadulterated dramaturgical clarity and to an exacting approach to physical poses, enacted one after another in an almost iconographic manner. Each position of the hands, lowering of the brow, or bend of the legs and torso produces a larger physical ensemble which is momentarily held as an embodiment of the religious statuary and manuscript illustrations which guided Devi and her peers in refining the form.

While some of Kinra’s solos are narrative, such as an excerpt from his full-length work Shree Ram Katha (2006) based on the famous Sanskrit epic The Ramayana, most take a more abstracted approach to the relaying of emotion and character. Particularly notable are a number of pieces (mostly from 2008’s Incarnations) depicting the composite nature of the Hindu deities Ganesha and Shiva’s various avatars (Ardhanareeshwara, Neelakanta, and Shiva-Mangalam).

Here, the different elements of Bharat-Natyam are arrayed in such a way as to harmonise the dual natures of these gods, and to relate how certain characteristics of the deity—Shiva’s blue-throat, for example, which he owes to a situation where he took on a partially sacrificial role for the universe, swallowing a blue poison which would have destroyed it, and yet still triumphed by keeping the liquid perpetually in his throat—were established and which signify these avatars’ special status. Much of the choreography is indicative (Neelakanta explicitly points at his throat) or overtly metaphoric and symbolic (Shiva’s dejected lover mimes arrows striking at her breast to signify her pain).

Perhaps what is most striking when viewed through the lens of Euro-American dance drama is how rarely Kinra actually inhabits, rather than alludes to or signifies, the figures whom he depicts. Bharat-Natyam works from the outside in, by precisely crafting physical poses and muscular constructs, rather from the inside out, as in Euro-American psychological drama or even most Expressionist dance such as that in the style of Martha Graham (herself both influenced by and an influence upon contemporary Bharat-Natyam).

Consequently, where choreographic acts do seem to temporality transfigure Kinra into the actual character he is alluding to, these rare points in the dance come to resemble miracles or moments of genuine, possessive magic—as when in the conclusion to her dance beseeching Shiva, Kinra/Radha finally falls to the ground, arms outstretched in supplication, his/her back wracked with sobs as s/he buries his face in the ground.

Similarly, the playing off of masculine and feminine dualities in the dance of Shiva as Ardhanareeshwara, the drawing of the thumb in a line down across the chest and to the waist as Kinra inclines to one side on bended knee, seem to almost suggest a kind of blurring of the body, a state in which one could imagine Shiva’s myriad arms emerging from Kinra’s torso to spread the god’s power and majesty throughout the theatre and across the universe that lies beyond.

This is perhaps the most intriguing tension upon which Bharat-Natyam depends, a dance so devoted to an unambiguously defined and executed language of physical forms, but in which, as in Hindu philosophy itself, these distinctions and pairings are arrayed in order to show how one might transcend them all and see the ultimate unity of all things.

Kinra’s achievement then is to be able to produce this extremely complex play of shapes and ideological-philosophical contradictions through ultimately simple forms. He dances alone, with no set, and comparatively little in the way of lighting, accompanied only by recordings of ragas largely composed to relate these themes in lyrical and musical form. While there were times when I pined to see Kinra paired with a live musician, particularly in the first piece which does not appear to be a very good recording, he is more than strong enough as a performer to succeed without such support.

This is also helped in no small part by Kinra’s astonishingly hard foot stamps. Bharat-Natyam is highly percussive in its temporal structure, and is often taught by having students learn to vocalise different patterns of stressed and unstressed sounds which the dance shares with tabla and other instruments. In Bharatam, Kinra turned the wooden floor of Dunedin’s Mary Hopewell Theatre into a massive drum, lending substance to his execution and enabling him to fill and command the space with a single stamp.

Kinra attracted good houses in Dunedin, but one might have hoped that a rare south island retrospective of one of New Zealand’s dance masters would have attracted greater numbers. Here’s hoping he will do so in Christchurch.
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