A rich and thought provoking evening, Drishti Dance’s Aangika at the Old Fire Station on 30th November included the first public performance of Presence, in which  Kathak exponent Anuradha Chaturvedi and ballet dancer Ségolène Tarte came together in a partially improvised dialogue between venerable classical dance traditions.  Marcella Vigneri gives her impressions:

When I was first asked to write a review for this piece of dance work, I thought carefully about what to expect from such an original and in some regards daring choreographic experiment: two very different classical dance styles, incredibly demanding in practice and interpretation, each requiring very specific emphasis on both footwork tempi and the many possible developments of body extensions and lines.

After sitting for over one hour through a fairly engaging Kathak performance, I was even more curious to see what was coming up, as I had taken notice of the very idiosyncratic lyricism in the movement of softly floating arms and bodies, precisely measured by the incredibly rhythmic footwork of the Kathak dancers.

In the opening scene of Presence I was intrigued by the choreographic choice of having the two dancers become aware of each other’s presence by the beautiful silhouettes of their bodies draped around with soft, patterned veils.  I liked the pace and geometry of each dancer approaching the other, with the only feature giving away the identity of the Kathak dancer from that of the ballerina their foot ‘wear’ and footwork style.

Presence is a short piece, and what struck me most favorably about it was the attempt not to blend two classical dance styles but to put on stage a dance encounter, to make these two styles ‘talk’ to each other, explore with some positive energy and curiosity – given away by the discovering expression of the dancers’ faces – and compare body lines, arm movements, leg extensions and bends in the gentle turning of the ballet dancer into and around the quick, precise but nonetheless gracefully attentive turns of the Kathak dancer.

I think the choreographic experiment paid off; if anything I felt it was not daring enough on both parts; it could have done with a bit more contrasting of the duet’s style differences; and in my view it could have done with a different selection of accompanying music, which to me did not quite speak to the originality of the choreographic experiment. In the end I was left with a pleasant feeling about this piece, though somehow a feeling of unfinished work… of a story not fully told.  Perhaps I missed capturing the close of this dance’s narrative – if the choreographers ever intended to have one – the ultimate meaning and outcome of this ‘brief’ encounter on stage.

I applaud this interesting initial attempt to introduce and describe how classical dance exists in very different forms and how it is possible to make these coexist in curious harmony on stage.

Marcella VIGNERI

1st December 2013