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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Encounter

Sindhoor (l) and Natyaveda in a thrilling pas de deux

The River Theatre
I have never seen anything quite like Aparna Sindoor's company.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

There are certain works of art you must allow to wash over you. I am reading Proust's gigantic Remembrance of Things Past and it is one of those works. Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is another. Tonight I saw Encounter, a Teesri Duniya producion, imported from India to help the company celebrate its 30 years and it is definitely one of those works. It is a play filled with dance but as if to underline the fact the moments will be allowed to breathe, actual breath is part of the soundscape of the initial images. The subsequent images, sounds and movements wash over you, if you allow them to.

To say this was an evening of exotica, for me, would sound faintly racist. But the fact is that I (and I suspect most in the house and many readers who should rush to see the short run of the piece) have never seen anything quite like Aparna Sindoor's company, Navarasa Dance Theatre, in action. There is not only a fusing of dance and theatre, here, but even within the different arts an explosive fusion of cultures. The dance is definitely rooted in the traditional, but they have incorporated into the movement elements from occidental modern dance (there is a stunning pas de deux that would be at home with Alvin Ailey's company) and even more eclectic suggestions than that: I couldn't help thinking, at one point, of the propagandist ballet/operas of Mainland China like the iconic Red Headed Girl - fascism as art.

The 70 minute evening—with its silences, explosions of sound and movement, and eruptions of music—passes quickly.

There is a story, of course, and a harsh tale it is. A militaristic regime is looking for enemies and targets a traveling theatre company. The singing and dance—so gentle to the spectator at the beginning—turns into a terrible beauty; finding poetry in hideousness.

If I was to pinpoint flaws one would be the overuse of blackouts to allow costume changes (I would wish that the changes had been integrated into the ritual the company is clearly proposing). I would also like to have seen the English text—by SM Raju, Anil Natyaveda amd Rahul Varma (Teesri's boss) sharpened, given its own beauty (even, as with the dance, in the ugliest situations).

But these are quibbles. The performers, Sindhoor and Natyaveda themselves (who co-choreographed), Rajesh Raveendran, Raghu Narayanan and Smitha Radhakrishnan, all have an electric stage presence and humongous talent and make that the 70 minute evening—with its silences, explosions of sound and movement, and eruptions of music—passes quickly.

As I said: it washes over you. Moreover, you can't beat a work which posits that theatre is redemptive for sending you into a brisk spring night warmed, a little dazed, and a better person for having seen it.

Until May 15 at Centre Calixa-Lavallée (Lafontaine Park)
Teesri web site
70 minutes

Read the Upstage Interview with Aparna Sindhoor on Charpo.

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