On Sunday June 2, ChitraKaavya Dance presented Manubhuti – Being Human at the Jeanne Wagner Theater. The program’s five offerings brought together a multigenerational cast of performers steeped in classical Indian dance forms. It struck me how elucidating it can be to see young dancers and older dancers together on stage. Even if you’re not deeply familiar with the traditions being presented — I know next to nothing about the history of Indian classical dance — you begin to see how dance traditions exist across the span of many interrelated, individual lives. The evening also featured contributions by modern dance artists Erica Womack and Katie Davis.
Womack’s “Ages” and ChitraKaavya director Srilatha Singh’s “Hyphen-ated” exist as a part of a longer conversation between these two artists about how to collaborate across their distinct choreographic heritages. I spoke a little bit with Womack after the show and she shared stories about moments when Singh and her company members challenged her instincts, ultimately leading her to make a riskier choice. The highlight of “Ages” was Srilatha Singh dancing in silks to Cesaria Evoria’s famed rendition of “Besame Mucho,” as Womack held a large fan, dead-pan. I was reminded of Kazuo Ohno’s Admiring La Argentina, except it was a little more lighthearted and a little less self-serious.
One of the most exciting elements of Sunday’s performance was an excellent live band: Suchinth Murty singing, Tarun Gudipati on the tablas, Abhishek Mukherjee on sitar, Sriram Krishnamoorthy on violin, and Shreyas Hoskere on keyboards and flute. Their presence raised the bar, particularly in “Hyphen-ated,” which began with an intense exercise in mirroring between Srilatha Singh and Malavika Singh, whose opening number at the top of the show was the evening’s namesake. (I don’t know if the two are related.) As they peered at each other through the empty wooden frame, I was drawn to their different strengths as performers. In Srilatha’s dancing, I watch her hands, and how quickly she can shift my focus without my expecting it; in short, the mastery of someone who’s been at it a while. In Malavika’s dancing, it’s her expansiveness, the ability to fill the empty stage, and her proclivity for off-balance rests and unexpected pauses — a hip tucked at an obscure angle, a lunge that seems too deep to sustain and then crumbles silently. I’m eager to see more of these conversations in the future.
This article is published in collaboration with loveDANCEmore.org.
Samuel Hanson is the executive director of loveDANCEmore.