Stomp! A delicate chime from the sparkling bhekamukha girdle falls to the floor. Stomp!! A white accent piece from the beautiful allaka headdress flutters behind a richly clad dancer. Stomp!!! A delicate bahichudi armlet slides down a graceful, slender arm. STOMP! An anklet is flung off stage. The highly talented and gorgeous women of the Jayantika Dance Company danced with such speed, grace and force during Sunday’s performance of Lila: The Love Story or Radha and Krishna that costume pieces were literally cascading from their bodies.
Four pieces comprised the delightful program performed in the Odissi style of Indian dance, which although performed as devotional dances well over 2,000 years ago, achieved a popular revival in the 1950s when it was transformed into a performance art. However, the spiritual roots remain deep in this spellbinding and evocative dance form, especially as performed by Shalini Goel Agarwal and Jayantika’s founder Jayantee Paine Ganguly.
Lila, taken from parts of the Gita Govinda by 12th-century poet Jayadeva, traces four stories related to Lord Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu. The first segment portrays his seductive flirtations with the gopis (female devotees of Krishna). Bell-encrusted anklets provided a rhythmic accompaniment to the musical soundtrack, thereby demonstrating the dancers’ finely attuned sense of rhythm and musicality that complemented their elegant hand gestures, body movements and refined characterizations.
Krishna’s main squeeze is the lovely Radha, but the second piece displays the heartbreak she experiences at the hands of the womanizing trickster Krishna. Ganguly took on both roles, infusing each with heartbreaking poignancy (in the case of Radha) and rakish charm (Krishna).
Krishna and Radha reunite in the next vignette with Agarwal this time playing both characters. Her radiant smile as Radha was full of touching honesty, and as Krishna, her sweet ministrations to Radha would make anyone fall in love again.
The final episode is the above-mentioned ecstatic dance of celebration between Radha and Krishna where both Ganguly and Agarwal danced with wild (yet technically sharp) abandon. A brief introduction to each piece was helpful for Western audiences unfamiliar with the symbolic and almost mime-like gestures of the Odissi style. Yet, even without these educational remarks, the Odissi style presented (as choreographed here by Gurus Kelucharan Mohapatra and Jyoti Rout) retains an ancient and primal storytelling quality that, although incredibly refined, touches something deep within us.
The riveting evening, though, belongs to Ganguly and Agarwal, whose coy beauty captures audiences with a simple glance, cock of the head, or dazzling smile. During one of the introductions, we were told that significant, and often daily, training is required for this complex dance form, and with these two performers it shows in every delicate hand gesture, each percussive stomp, multiple flashes of the eyes, and serpentine undulations of the torso. This is a must-see performance.
Lila: The Love Story of Radha and Krishna
Director Jayantee Paine Ganguly
Producing by Jayantika Dance Company
Reviewed by Greg Marzullo & Philip Fletcher