Spilling Ink Productions
January 29, 2017
by George Jackson
© 2017 by George Jackson
Familiar formats in America for the classic dancing of India include long solos that are autobiographical and may seem like acts of self sacrifice by the time they finish, also sensual duets that tell tales of love, or epic group sagas. For its 10th anniversary the Spilling Ink organization presented a small ensemble, six dancers, in a work which explored ideas about prayer. Remarkable discipline and coordination were displayed by the cast in this ritual which lasted and lasted.
The dancing, based on the stamina of the Bharata Natyam style, started slowly, processionally. It then unfolded through six scenes, displaying the turned-out, slung stances of Indiadance and the straightened, stretched ones. Both types of positions are strongly centered, physically and spiritually. Also shown and varied was stamping with the full bottom of the foot or with just the heel or the front pad. Of course, the arms, hands, and fingers came into play, too, as did an alert carriage of the head and a range of facial expressions. Distinctive in “Alekhya” were the tight formations for two, four or all six members of the cast. These seemed almost military rather than devotional. Part of the pleasure that the stances and non-percussive steps give me is in comparing them to the vocabulary of Western classical ballet. The rhythmic footwork often is more subtle than Western tap dancing.
Figuring prominently in this production were circular and global imagery involving ceramic pots and mandala designs. Spoken text and instrumental music supported the action. The successive scenes or ”acts” were titled “Sound”, “Illusion”, “Perspectives”, “Freedom”, “Spilling Ink” and a final “Mangalam”. What is the connotation of “Spilling Ink”, which is both the name of the dance company and the overall title (“Alekhya”) of this work? What does “Mangalam” mean? On exiting Dance Place, each member of the audience could carry away a small paper bag containing a scroll tied with orange twine. Unrolled, the scroll consisted of three heavy sheets of parchment,. The sheets were empty, just waiting for ink. Undoubtedly, Spilling Ink’s founder and co-choreographer -- Vijay Palaparty – and his colleague – Nalini Prakash – intended to wish everyone good writing and acute thinking. “Mangalam” could refer to combat and/or to an Asian board game. Either meaning might have prompted Palaparty and Prakash to choreograph the strict, striking floor patterns – v shapes, circles, rosettes - for the cast.
All of the four dancing women – Rashi Narain, Kaushika Prakash, Krithika Rajkumar and co-choreographer Nalini Prakash – moved supplely and were sleek. Of the two men, Sujit Vaidya looked young, trim and the mature Palaparty could be quite commanding. In addition to being celebratory, did this ritual dance help viewers “to forget and find”?