When Bharatanatyam meets eclectic poetry


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
When Bharatanatyam meets eclectic poetry

Two months ago, Dr Janaki Rangarajan got a call asking her to conceptualise a show. Not a typical Bharatanatyam show, but something ?different'. It was a quote by Persian poet Rumi which got the trained Bharatanatyam dancer contemplating using poetry as part of her performance. Before long, she decided on bringing poetry and dance together for the production.

"When I read something, in my mind I translate it into movements," Janaki says. The show, ?Voices', will bring poetry to life through dance and music. While poetry is something Janaki is comfortable with and enjoys reading, she called on Theatre Nisha's V Balakrishnan to help her with the facets of performance. Bala, as he is called, will be the voice behind the poetry while Janaki performs the pieces.

Janaki says this is definitely "out of her comfort zone" since she is accustomed to performing traditional Bharatanatyam. One of their "experimental duets" is a conversation between a man and a woman, which is based on a poem from Sangam literature. While Janaki dances the woman's side of the dialogue, Bala will act out the man's perspective.

The selection of poems are eclectic, ranging from Sangam poetry to verse by Pablo Neruda. Poems will be dramatised in Hindi, Tamil, English and Persian. While the central piece will be Jaishankar Prasad's ?Kamayani', the list of poets also includes New York-based Pramila Venkateswaran, Amir Khusrau and Rumi.The poems were picked by Janaki who is based in the US. Pieces which resonated with her the most were the ones she chose.

The US-based dancer explains how she burned the candle at both ends to translate the poems and coordinate with the others involved, who were all in India. Bala jokes that he would often switch on his Skype to see her itching to begin work. "I've really enjoyed the journey and have had to push my boundaries for this show," she says. Having been trained in traditional Bharatanatyam from the age of four by Padma Subrahmanyam, theatre is new to her. "I'm finding out how theatre artistes like Bala approach poetry, and getting a feel of how they look at things too."

Music for the show has been composed by Dr Rajkumar Bharathi and Sudha Raghuraman. The show will be held at Krishna Gana Sabha at 7pm on Friday. Entry is free.

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