Malavika Sarukkai's "Energies Auspicious & Fearsome"
The Kennedy Center's Maximum India Festival
March 10, 2011
by George Jackson
copyright 2011 by George Jackson
Malavika Sarukkai dares to use one arm rotating, one foot stamping or to stand perfectly still. The rotation is radical for Bharata Natyam styling but pure. Her foot's impact on the floor symbolizes dance's power. Her stance is a testament to classicism's endurance. Having reduced technique to minima, she'll splurge on a feast - full portions of footwork patter, arm assertions and torso postures that are fluted, folded or proudly straight. The thematic of Sarukkai's choreography is mainstream Indian - about creative divinities and their epic battles - yet its manifestations in space and time - square formations, circles, serene centers and infinitely many melodic rhythms - are universal and, yes, personal.
The personal is important in Sarukkai's delivery. I think she warms fully to performing not right away. There's a reserve at first, impressive in its own way. With time, though, Sarukkai doesn't tire. Her dance, with barely a pause between its three panels - is long yet builds. Passion mounts. Her distance from her musicians and from us, the audience, appears to disappear. In shifting between moods or characters, she gets to a point at which more than one can be present almost at once.
Don't ask what Sarukkai looks like. She was beautiful as a goddess, fearsome as a demon and at moments auspiciously both. Moving minimally she is never less than intense, dancing with every fiber she burns with a clear light.