April 16, 2012
Rukimi Vijayakumar, stunning and poised, immediately captures the audience’s gaze as she steps center stage
donned in gold with bells wrapped around her ankles and jewelry sparkling beneath the lights. She begins to
move, striking intricate poses specific down her finger placement and animated glance.
Erasing Borders: DanceFEST INDIA Concert II was presented at
La Mama Club. Pulling from the classical South Indian dance form Bharatanatyam, two up and coming
choreographers (Vijayakumar and Preeti Vasudevan: Thresh Dance) trained also in Western modern dance
showcased their cross-cultural work.
A series of Bharatanatyam dances, full of expressive faces, elegant mudras (symbolic hand gestures), and sharp
poses with the legs often bent between turns and stomps, open the show. Prior to each, Vijayakumar takes the
microphone offering some background to the story and spiritual qualities that color each solo.
In “Sako Sako Priyai,” she transforms into a lover of the Hindu deity, Shiva. Humor runs through the
movement, driven heavily by facial expressions portraying annoyance with her far-too popular love interest.
Next Vijayakumar expresses the beauty of lord Krishna in “Kasturi Tilakam.” The spotlight
shines down upon her as she sits in a deep lunge holding one arm over her head, the other bent in at her chest.
Following is Savitri: A Journey in Eternal Night by Thresh Dance (Contemporary Indian Dance Theater).
Dancer/Choreographer Preeti Vasudevan is joined by vocalist Kyra Gaunt in a unique part dance-part musical
duet interpretation of a debate between the mortal woman, Savitri, and the God of Death (Yama) who is on the
verge of taking her husband’s soul.
The dynamic between the two evolves becoming more and more endearing and comical throughout. Laughs are
heard from the audience as Vasudevan’s decided upper body movements are complimented by moans, squeaks,
and loud, heartfelt notes sung by the gowned Gaunt. Unexpectedly, Vasudevan’s poignant glance shifts to her
singing counterpart as she breaks her own silence with a “Shhh!” before returning to her dance. Alongside the
melding of traditional and contemporary Indian dance found in Vasudevan’s movement, the music composed
by John Hadfield and verses from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri create the theatrical atmosphere.
The evening concert closes with Vijayakumar once again taking the stage – this time in a completely different
form. Her hair falls over her shoulder in a loose braid and a leotard and long plain skirt parallel the simple
look. An excerpt from her work-in-progress, Reaching Out dives into gestural exploration through modern
dance. Her skirt becomes a part of her movement as she pulls at it and tosses the fabric. Inspired by her acting
experience in The Lady of Burma, the piece has a dramatic aire and includes spoken word at points.
The festival presented by Indo-American Arts Council and Trinayan Dance Theatre, included three dance concert evenings, family friendly performances, as
well as various panels and workshops.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jennifer Thompson