Silent fires

Centennial Theatre, Auckland Grammar School, Auckland

05/10/2007 - 05/10/2007

Tempo Dance Festival 2007

Production Details

Kanan Deobhakta Dance Co

The fires within us that warm & comfort us, fires that provide warmth to others. Fires that have ignited but failed to warm, fires that have consumed to leave behind ashes, memories & destruction. Kanan celebrates 25 years of using traditional components of the Indian Classical & Contemporary styles of Bharata Natyam & Odissi, synthesizing dance & drama with contemporary flavour.

When: Fri 5 Oct
Where: Centennial Theatre
Time: 7.30pm
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: $25 Adult / $20 Group of 10
Ticketing: Ticketek / Ph: 0800 842 538 /

Dance , Indian classical dance ,

A sublime outcome

Review by Dr Mark James Hamilton 09th Oct 2007

Heavy drums, throbbing drones and bell tones augment measured Sanskrit lyrics, rhythmically rendered and boldly exposed by a voice with child-like purity. To stark melodic loops, cyclical repetitions of words and movement unfold. "Ag-ni. Ag-ni." Deobhakta’s feet follow the syllables – toe, heel, toe, heel. From this clear connection the choreographer-dancer leads us into more intricate relationships, inching away from the literal pairing into less easily defined cross-rhythmic tensions.

The performance illuminates texts worshipping fire – extolling the Sun’s bounty and evoking the primal drama of marriage ceremonies and funeral rites. Deobhakta carefully articulates her body and the space around her, drawing from her dual pedigree as an exponent of Odissi and Bharata Natyam. At all times, she realises the central tenet of these traditions – the sustaining of a tranquil centre amidst staccato feet, reaching arms and complex gestures.

The sequence of short narratives are danced and mimed on an empty stage, before stark panoramas created with Bill Brinsley’s elemental lighting – a blaze of flames, a sun in a blue sky, a moon rising. Deobhakta’s intricate actions and rich understated costume make her appear like an oil miniature framed in the vastness of a modern gallery.

Deobhakta deftly navigates past the titillating connotations that bedevil her idiom, exposing instead its profound intensity. She makes lucid the elegant reductionism that underpins Hindu allegories. Knowing that India’s classical forms are modern reformations, I was delighted to find shards of Vedic ritual spiking Silent Fires. Devotional salutations are made to all points of the compass. Symmetrical postural sequences are expanded by long frozen pauses, revealing the dance form’s sculptural connections and challenging the dancer’s resolve.

Seeing Deobhakta and her student Pratima emit bursts of ferocious potential, it is easy to conceive that in nature’s placidity resides the continual immanence of Sakti – the female Life Force goddess. Their stabbing jumps graze the stage. Their sturdy feet slap resoundingly. Their hands caress then claw the air.

This performance is accessible to the non-connoisseur without being condescending. Its clarity is resonantly sophisticated. Spaciousness informs the movement and the music: there is no sprinkling of petals or umpteen costume changes, there are no searing and soaring instruments spiralling dizzyingly around the melody.

Maybe necessity led to the performance’s structure – Indian dance’s supersonic speed requires crazy athleticism, and even a small orchestra eats holes in meagre resources of time and patience (some musicians are divine, but in my experience many are not). Whatever led to this programme, the outcome is sublime.

Deobhakta cunningly cuts short the final item – a reprise of the opening. Our attention is anchored to three words, "mana, citta, prana" (mind, intelligence, life force). This is a very pertinent close to a performance pregnant with meditations on these terms, and riddled with demonstrations of these concepts at work in Deobhakta’s dance.
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