"Shiva Tarangam," "Woke Up Blind," "Witness," "Beckoning"
Shantala Shivalingappa, Nederlands Dans Theater, Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, Cloud Gate 2
Fall for Dance Program #5
City Center, New York
October 7, 2016
by Tom Phillips
copyright 2016 by Tom Phillips
Shiva is the Hindu god of destruction, but what he destroys is the veil of illusion that separates us from the truth. He prepares our eyes to behold the play of the Gods, and even imitate it on this earth. Such is the theory and practice of Shantala Shivalingappa, born in south India, raised in Paris, trained in the classical Indian dance form Kuchipudi, who has dedicated her career to sharing the form with Western audiences.
There was not even the hint of a misstep in Shivalingappa’s opening performance Friday. “Shiva Tarangam” had the feel of a ceremony, performed so many times that flawless repetition becomes part of the expression – yet alive and new, in every flutter of the hands, curve of the instep, opening of the lips, flash of the eye. It even includes a trick sequence, as she moves about the stage balancing on a brass plate, like a child on a skateboard. Shivalingappa danced to live music of an Indian ensemble, seated cross-legged on the floor, who were similar masters of their art. This set the tone for Program Five of Fall for Dance, an international event and a mixed bag.
Shantala Shivalingappa. Photo by Hector Perez
Bookending the program was another exercise in Asian tradition, but with a contemporary look and feel. Cloud Gate 2 is a company of young people from Taiwan whose “Beckoning” calls to mind the fluid energy of T’ai Chi, the playful wisdom of the Tao te Ching. Dancing over a pattern of circles on the floor, ten young men and women form and dissolve their own circles, embrace and part, whirl close to the ground in a deep plie, totter upright with tiny steps on little feet. Their strength and speed comes from roundedness, groundedness, softness in the joints. This is all set off by a percussive sound score full of drumbeats, pings and blips, a rowdy chanting chorus, a stray cello. Fascinating and satisfying.
In between were two Western numbers. After Shivalingappa came a frenetic ensemble of the Nederlands Dans Theater, which interestingly used some of her same gestures, but to a different end. “Woke Up Blind” is a vision of delusion, set to two howling love songs by the late Jeff Buckley. “Like young lovers, the dancers throw themselves into the unknown regardless of the consequences, driven purely by longing,” says the program. This they do in rapid-fire popping and locking, twitching, grabbing and fleeing. The movements were impressive. Following Shivalingappa’s opening purification rite, this plunged us right back into the mire.
A brief romantic interlude ensued. Alessandra Ferri, mature but still lissome and dreamy, draped herself over Herman Cornejo, opened out to leisurely heights in an intimate but less than passionate pas de deux. “Witness” was a world premiere of choreography by Wayne McGregor, to a piano piece, “Immerse” by Nils Frahm. Lovely, but little more.
The program will be repeated tonight, the closing night of Fall for Dance 2016.
Copyright 2016 by Tom Phillips