Sutra Dance Theater Reinvents Love with “Krishna”

samskriti in 1

Photos: Amitava Sarkar, Photography InSight

By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: A Malaysian dance troupe with a pure Odissi repertoire – what are the odds? That was what was made possible by the Sutra Dance Theater, which traveled from Malaysia to commence their US and Canada tour in Houston on Oct 26 at the Wortham Center with their production, “Krishna, Love Reinvented”, at the invitation of Samskriti.

samskriti in 3

It would be an understatement to say that the devotion and dedication demonstrated by a non Hindu dancer, founder/artistic director and choreographer, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim to this purely Hindu temple dance form Odissi was par excellence. Trained in classical ballet, modern dance, and Indian classical dance he put Malaysia on the dance map and is now one of its most prominent dance figures. He has almost single-handedly established Odissi as a widely appreciated dance form in Malaysia. The performance brought to focus that in a world torn apart by religious strife, art can bring people together. It transcended all barriers of religion, geography and language and embodied the liberation of the human spirit with complete abandon, sheerly through love.

samskriti in 2

The work explored the total identification of the devotee couple (poet Jayadeva and wife Padmavati) with the pastoral god Krishna and his consort Radha. The program started with a Mangala Charanam, an invocatory homage to Lord Krishna. As the group of 8 dancers went through the entire repertoire, the moods, feelings and emotions of the love affair, Rasa (highest emotional state) became a sublime allegory expressing and affirming the highest love the individual soul has for God. The colorful costumes, gorgeous set and well thought out lighting added to the ambiance of the production.

The Sthayi depicted Krishna’s springtime dalliance with the gopis, who were then intoxicated by the scintillating vision of the lord in the Krishna Tandava, and mesmerized by his divine flute playing in the abhinaya piece “Mohane Deli Chahi.” The exact precision of movements, picture perfect coordination and pursuit to perfection of the dancers, are the qualities that place the Sutra Dance theater way above the rest. The dances seemed like poetry in motion as the ethereal movements of the dancers flowed effortlessly and  flawlessly to create beautiful statuesque pictures. As they froze and held the beautiful formations to the photographer’s delight, the audience seemed to fall more and more in love with the dancers’ interpretations.

The second half saw the serenading of the gopis by Krishna in Nachante range Sri Hari and a pure dance Pallavi where Krishna replicates himself and is surrounded by gopis. The evening ended with a standing ovation for the dancers and recognition of Ramli Ibrahim by the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker with the presentation of a plaque by Nandita Harish (Consul General P. Harish’s wife). The day was proclaimed as Ramli Ibrahim day and the proclamation was read by Sanjay Ramabhadran. Rathna Kumar, the Artistic director of Samskriti thanked the audience for its support. This program marked the culmination of the wonderful series of programs hosted by Samskriti in its 20th year.