Friday, April 14, 2006



Last night I was very privileged to attend a fabulous dance recital with sasgirl and other friends from mybindi. The dance form we went to see is called "Bharatnatyam" and it has its origins in the temples, royal courts, private soirees and weddings of South India. The dance was originally performed by the devadasis (distinct communities of women performers) . The Devadasis often lived in women-centered households and many underwent a ritual marriage to a temple deity ,however, they were allowed to have relationships with male partners of their choice, and children born of such relationships were considered legitimate and took their mother's names.

In 1947, with the Indian reform movement, the world of the devadasis was altered forever and the government officially outlawed the devadasi lifestyle by passing the "Anti-Devadasi Act". The dasis were banned from singing and dancing; some were dislodged from their homes and even branded as "prostitutes".

Their dance form was thankfully reinvented by non-devadasi elites in the early 20th century as one of the "classical ' arts of India: BharatNatyam.

The Dance itself is a beautiful, but complex series of moves by a dancer in a linear or geometrical fashion oozing eroticism, longing, desire, sensualism - one has to watch for the eyes and the hand movements in particular because they are full of symbolism - it's like watching an exotic Indian sculpture come to life - sheer poetry! There is also a lot of intricate foot movement with the dancers' feet, wrapped in bells, often tapping out music comparable to a wonderful percussion instrument.

"Poornima" or Full Moon (and it was a beautiful full moon night yesterday) is the title of the show we girls went to see. It is a multimedia dance work created by Hari Krishnan, Toronto based Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, teacher and dance scholar. Purnima/Full Moon is one of his attempts to bring devadasi repertoire into the public eye. The performance consisted of songs that have not been sung outside the devadasi community for nearly 70 years, adapted and conceptualized for today's audiences. The performance environment was beautifully created with dance, the spoken word, shadow,light, image, and live music playing major roles. How I wish I had a video clip to upload here! It was bedazzling to say the least.

9 comments:

hellomelissa said...

i have lotus envy.

Lotus Reads said...

Awww, wish you could have been here - the recital was stunning!

If you make it to Toronto hopefully we will be able to catch a couple of shows and oh, September is the month for wine-tasting cruises,too!

sasgirl said...

I had a great time too Lotus! The show was absolutely breath-taking and the dancing, pure divine! After taking such a long break from classical dance, my eyes drank in all the beautiful movements and nuances that come in Bharatnatyam.

Hellomelissa, you should definitely make a trip up north, there are always different shows going on every month!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, sasgirl!

I tried calling you on the weekend, but I think your phone was switched off. Nothing urgent, just wanted to know if you wanted to see "V for Vendetta" with the girls, but I realize you will be in Paris...

When you come back we'll do something.

Susan in Italy said...

I'm jealous too. This really sounds captivating.

sasgirl said...

Thanks Lotus for the movie invite! But we'll definitely plan something after I come back. :)

Lotus Reads said...

sasgirl-

au revoir, mon amie...

a bientot!

(sorry, not sure how to get French accents on my keyboard!) :)

J said...

Wow...wish I lived closer than 3,000 miles away...sounds like it would have been great. I used to know a girl named Purnima, and my husband and I were married on a full moon (auspicious day, don't you know...), and I would have named Maya, Purnima, but Ted didn't like the name so much. But whenever we see the full moon, she says, "Hi Purnima!"

Sounds like a great event.

Lotus Reads said...

Yes, it sure would have been nice to have you living closer, J. And, doesn't Ted's family live in Ontario? Purnima is a beautiful name, but I have to confess Maya gets my vote - it has always been one of my favorite names!