Friday, October 16, 2015

"Quiet Joy"...Brinda Guha

The word "FUSION" has recently risen to fame within the dance world, being used to describe any and all sorts of genre blending. At the moment, you can find teachers promoting everything from "contemporary fusion" to "hip hop fusion" to "latin fusion". All that to say, with so much fusion floating around the dance space, its beautiful to see an artist who has a truly clear vision when it comes to authentically blending disparate movement traditions into a cohesive choreographic statement. Brinda Guha, the artistic director of Kalamandir Dance Company in NYC, has taken the vocabulary of ancient Indian khattak dance, and crossbred it with a more western contemporary dance approach. The result is a lush and sensual treat for the eyes and ears.

MUSICALITY: Khattak dance is a heavily percussive Indian folk dance, that requires intense mastery of complex footwork and rhythmic patterns. Traditionally accompanied by the tabla, a drum that is capable of producing distinct tones and pitches, the khattak dancer has the ability to keep dynamic tempo with their feet, while simultaneously telling a fluid, continuous story with their hands and torso. To see a master khattak dancer in action, is to see the human brain working on many different layers, all together in perfect synchronicity. When Brinda started to blend the traditions of khattak with a more contemporary aesthetic, she was able to translate this duality by incorporating the iconic movement of folk styles into upper torso and port de bras, while exploring the more grounded elements of contemporary footwork and even, classical lower body technique (4th position, 2nd position, 1st position, arabesque, 1:53-1:55).

DANCER SYNC: All dance techniques employ some aspect of core and pelvic isolation and control, by focusing on this universal constant, Brinda was able to find common ground where khattak could intersect with contemporary. Watch (1:45-1:48) and you will a beautiful undulation of the hips and pelvic bowl. This is a perfect example of the essence of the Kalamandir approach, finding the movements that intersect and then building up and down from this starting point. Consequently, this creates a cohesive movement language that works equally well on both planes, thereby allowing the dancers to connect deeply to sequence.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: When I watch Brinda's work, I feel compelled to let go and allow myself to be hypnotically transported. The dancers of KDC move through the space like a mandala that is perpetually changing its form, evolving and shifting shape and color. There is also a mature sensibility to balance the percussive, rhythmic accents, with the smooth, lyrical elements. When a choreographer knows how to play with this delicate back and forth, the viewer is able to maintain a strong investment in the company's artistic statement.

KUDOS to Brinda for nailing the true aspects of a fusion between two very unique and seemingly contradictory modes of movement, creating a surprising and satisfying new amalgam.

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