Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dakshina and Sakshi at Ailey tonight

This weekend, Nandini Sikand (Sakshi Productions) and DC-based Daniel Phoenix Singh (Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company) gracefully interweave their companies, cultural traditions and modern visions in a shared program, Prana/Breath, that concludes tonight at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. Both troupes uphold the exacting discipline and charismatic dazzle of Indian dance traditions--Daksina's Bharata Natyam; Sakshi's Odissi--while venturing contemporary ideas of movement and narrative.

Both artistic paths--old and new--are on offer in a show including ten pieces and, with an intermission, running well past two hours. But it is in the latter area--the infusion of contemporary choreography--where Prana/Breath sometimes weakens, putting forth movement that swirls and expands, less like breath than like ink dripped into water, leaving no clear or lasting mark. Carrie Rohman's Beyond Muscle, Beyond Bone--a 2006 duet made in homage to the late choreographer Cheryl Wallace and danced by Rohman and Kristin Lyndal Garbarino of Sakshi--might have subtle, spiritual connections to the evening's already elusive theme of prana. (What form of dancing is not, in its very foundation, about breath?) However, without the program notes' reference to Wallace, Beyond Muscle, Beyond Bone's vague, pleasant airiness would ultimately speak of nothing but itself.

Singh's love duet Since You've Asked (2009), danced with Jamal Ari Black and set to music by Leonard Cohen and Jacques Brel, rests so much on the obvious physical similarity and unison of these two slender, lyrical guys that it does not afford the men the individuality and individual textures--sourced from within, not applied externally--that could make this piece resonate in our own human hearts. A few tender touches come a little late to have what was possibly the intended, empathic effect.

In that respect, the evening's crown belongs to Symbiosis--a palpably tender, occasionally playful duet in the sensuous Odissi tradition and shared by Sikand and Singh. This piece displays the union of opposites so often depicted in South Asian imagery as male and female deities in romantic or erotic coupling that can represent a host of potential blendings of being and energy, even within one person or thing. Om shanti, shanti, shanti. Symbiosis was made and is danced by two beautiful masters who, in their clearly loving attention to detail and nuance in movement, reward our witness.

Dakshina's Natalia Mesa Higuera was also fascinating as a clearly troubled figure, struggling and failing to hold herself together, in Darla Stanley's contemporary solo, In Sleep She Migrates Home (2012).

For information and tickets for tonight's 8pm performance, click here.

Ailey Citigroup Theater

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
The Joan Weill Center for Dance
405 West 55th Street (at 9th Avenue), Manhattan

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