nytheatre.com review by Heather Olmstead
August 11, 2012
Malini Srinivasan and Dancers bring us Being Becoming, a Bharatanatyam dance performance that explores the concept of becoming the object of one’s devotion. This was the first Bharatanatyam performance I’ve ever experienced but it definitely won’t be the last. I learned from Malini Srinivasan’s website that “Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form that developed in the south of India . . . Bharatanatyam’s key features are its nrtta (pure movement or technique) and its abhinaya (mime or expression).” That is a spot on description of the skills you will see in Being Becoming but it does not convey the gorgeous art you will witness.
The movement of all three dancers; Kadhambari Sridhar, Malini Srinivasan, and Umesh Venkatesan, is precise and incredibly expressive. I watched a lotus flower bloom in Malini’s hands, a dove lovingly held fly from Umesh’s embrace and what I suspect was a cobra frighten then intrigue him. All three dancers were superbly skilled, dancing with the whole body or just a flick of the eyes. Kadhambari had the slightest quirk of a smile that fascinated me. Malini’s eyes were full of passion and Umesh had a smile that filled the whole room with joy.
The costumes, make-up and jewelry were all exquisite and fully supported the beauty of the movement. Both Malini and Umesh’s choreography were perfectly complimented by the music. The movement added a percussive element to the music through the stamping of feet and each dancer’s salangais, a leather strip with metal bells attached worn on the ankles. There was wonderful use of a piece of fabric, first as a scrim behind which we watched Malini prepare for the dance by donning the final pieces of ornamentation. It then became a sari, a veil, and a bed. The only other scenic element was the occasional slide with poetry or prose. That made me feel like I was watching a live action silent movie, a very cool thing. I would have liked to have seen the projections used as backdrops as well; even a simple wash of color would have helped set the tone.
The entire performance mesmerized me. I strongly encourage you to see Being Becoming. At the very least it’s something unique to experience but hopefully it will be more than that for you. Perhaps, like me, you’ll discover a new art form to fall in love with.