Nrityagram Dance Ensemble
If updating the classics with outside influences sounds sacrilegious, have a look at a lively double interview in the New York Times last April with American modern dance guru Mark Morris (whose company opened this UMS season) and Surupa Sen, in which Morris opined, "First of all, nothing is pure or ever has been. It's like when you're a kid and you first realize that when you cross the state border there isn't a line, and it doesn't change colors like it does on the map. All languages, all cultures it's not multiculturalism, it's culture."
Odissi dance is notable for its tribhangi stance, three body bends that create an S curve. Combining it with isolated torso movements and codified hand and facial expressions, the exquisite dancers of Nrityagram bring temple sculpture to life. When I saw Nrityagram in 2003, I was struck by the performers' high-relief gestures and sinuous poise as they scooted on percussive feet. They animate space to extraordinary effect. (Kids will love the one-hour family performance on April 18.) Set to live music, often commissioned by the group, the arts align in Nrityagram's exalted sanctuary: sculpture, poetry (verse is attached to every movement), and the dance.
[Review published April 2006]