The Quest for Krishna: The Sacred and the Sensuous by Manisha Jain, 5/2/2014
An enigma to many, Krishna is the most adored entity of the Hindu pantheon. His multifaceted personality never fails to evoke a mystical sense of devotion, passion, and divine romanticism in the hearts of his devotees. Such was the mood on a beautiful spring evening at the intimate BU Dance theatre, where the Triveni Ensemble transported its audience on a journey of love and devotion, set to mellifluous music, graceful footwork, and artful abhinaya. The Sacred and the Sensuous, Triveni's latest production by Neena Gulati and her troupe of accomplished, enthusiastic dancers was a true embodiment of Krishna, The Lord and the Lover. The initial invocation where the dancers seek the blessings of the Gods was followed by a tightly woven dance-drama, a linear narrative in graceful rhythm, the strings of which were held by the sutradhar. Saraswathy Nochur's eloquent narration formed the backbone of the entire show, as many shades of Krishna's life were captivatingly portrayed by the adept dancers in a collage of Bharatnatyam, Odissi, and Kuchipudi dances, set to classical and contemporary music. The dynamic duo of Neena Gulati and Oamshree Amarasingham transcended the earthly guru- shishya role to render the ethereal interplay between the mischievous little Krishna and the doting mother Yashoda, who, upon finding Krishna eating sand, discovers the entire universe in his mouth. This was followed by a vibrant Pallavi, highlighting both the beauty and heartache of the spring, through the eyes of Radha, Krishna's beloved, who pines for him in his absence. In contrast, the vain Satyabhama, Krishna's most beautiful wife, brilliantly enacted by Tejasi Thatte, struts the stage, embodying pride along with her unabashed declaration of love for her lord.
The second half, began with the talented duo, Priyanka Subash and Sonali Sengupta, the producers of the show, mesmerizing the audience by their artful abhinaya as they brought to life, myriad stories from Krishna's life set to a bhajan by the medieval poetess Mira Bai. Their versatile expressions and their uncanny ability to crawl under the skin of the character they were playing enthralled the audience. The next three pieces depicted Krishna as the lover incarnate at his sublimated best. The gopikas, “Dancing in Madness” displayed a beautiful simplicity, focusing on various dancers’ postures and their interactions. In “Tillana “ the emotion of love ultimately surpassed to “bhakti” through sculpturesque poses reminiscent of Hindu temples.
The piece-de-resistance of the show was a final tribute to Krishna who serenades the women in his court by the lilting music of his magical flute. Featuring merry, dynamic choreography and beguiling formations set to a composition by Anoushka Shankar, the lighthearted air of the piece belied the expert control and coordination displayed by the dancers.
It was hardly surprising to hear the thundering ovation as the dancers took their final bows on the stage, a spontaneous reaction of an audience that had been elevated to a spiritual level. Neena and her senior dancers, proved their mettle yet again, by an eclectic display of graceful, complex and ingenious choreography and execution, all for a most noble and uplifting cause. Triveni’s signature annual initiative raised generous funds for the Akshaya Patra Foundation, whose mission is to simultaneously address childhood hunger and malnutrition in India and to increase underprivileged children’s access to education. This in essence is a tribute to the innate talent of the Triveni Ensemble, a source of pride, as our cultural and social ambassadors. Through their creative and artistic depiction, they left the audience longing for more – wondering who the real Krishna is? Is he the playful child who steals butter, the eternal Romeo who evokes passion in many a hearts, the savior who safeguards Draupadi’s honor, or the spiritual lord who transcends all boundaries as he takes you to the realm of bhakti? Is he the “Sacred” or the “Sensuous” or both…?