Two new dances were presented at the recent Sutra Foundation festival, writes Subhadra Devan
NEW works at the recent Sutra Foundation dance festival Tarikan! made for an interesting evening at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, during the Merdeka weekend.
Sutra Dance Theatre, led by odissi doyen Ramli Ibrahim, has been at the forefront of “contemporary dance repertoires rooted in Asian dance traditions”, as the Sutra Press release justly states.
The premieres of Panchara and She-Ra were by Rathimalar Govindarajoo and choreographer Kalpana Raghuraman of Korzo Theatre in The Hague, Netherlands. Both featured the Sutra Dance Theatre dancers.
Panchara (“cage” in Sanskrit) presented a clear theme of the feminine roles in modern society. With muscular movements contrasting against the slower, odissi-like sections, the dancers offered the tale of women being goddesses but who try to break the boundaries around them. Hence, the space of work fittingly worked within a “cage”.
Nalina Nair’s self-possessed “goddess” of tradition, using minimalistic movements, was a powerful presence that added a sharp contrast to the flexible, almost acrobatic movements of the other dancers. The edgy choreography worked well with composer Edwin Anand’s dance club-like music.
The dancers — Rathimalar herself, Tan Mei Mei, Sivagama Valli, Geethika Sree, Divya Nair and Nalina Nair, among others — were almost lyrical in their presentation.
Rathimalar, with her Panchara choreography, offers an exciting time ahead for dancers in in the country. From a sharp, almost acrobatic performance, the second dance titled She-Ra, a portrayal of superheroes, was comparatively looser, slower and almost laboured.
In trying to portray these superhero powers — be they mythological or imagined — the telling seemed to have lost its way, which was a pity as the dancers — who included Rathimalar, Tan, Sivagama, Geethika, and Harenthiran — well performed the multi-layered routines which were impressively choreographed.
From groups and solos to groups, the flow was seamless. The intensity behind the portrayals of power left many enthralled. It would have lightened the mood if the joy of being a superhero was also allowed to be seen. As such, the length of She-Ra was a test of mental stamina for the audience.
With a little tightening of some segments, She-Ra would be a compelling piece to watch.