Saturday, April 16, 2016

Transcendant Malini Srinivasan

Dancer Malini Srinivasan introduces a dance.
Winter Garden at Brookfield Place
(photos: Eva Yaa Asantewaa)
Musicians shown, l-r: Vocalist Taniya Panda,
violinist Arun Ramamurthy
and bansuri (flute) player Jay Gandhi
(photos: Eva Yaa Asantewaa)

Sitting on the amphitheatrical staircase at the Winter Garden atrium at Brookfield Place can make you feel like you've finally fallen into that elusive "lap of luxury" you've always heard so much about. Beyond the round staircase landing (used as a performance space), you gaze out at a stand of palm trees, the entrances to upscale shopping spots and eateries and, past tall windows, to a yacht marina gleaming in the setting sun. The Winter Garden sits near the Hudson River edge of a neighborhood that, especially since 9/11, has seemed evermore sterile in design and sealed off from the rest of New York.

But Malini Srinivasan's Bharatanatyam performance last night--part of arts Brookfield's Transcendant Arts of Tibet & India series--brought heart and warmth to these surroundings. Entitled Rasa in the Round, the generous, nearly two-hour program included several dance solos by Srinivasan and music by Taniya Panda (Carnatic vocal), Samarth Nagarkar (Hindustani vocal), Umesh Venkatesan (nattuvangam), Arun Ramamurthy (violin), Jay Gandhi (bansuri), Bala Skandan (mrdangam) and Suryaksha Deshpande (tabla). Ramamurthy and flutist Gandhi, in particular, created heavenly beauty.

Srinivasan, dressed in magenta and gold, ritually blessed the space with movement and the release of rose petals to the air. Her dancing drew us close to those lovers of Lord Krishna who pine for him and vie for his favor. Her mastery of dance and story showed in her integrity of line, her firmly grounded plasticity allowing her to maintain control even when stretched, lunged or twisted out from her axis, shaping refined gestures and minute flutters of her fingers. Always, she displayed follow-through from head to toe, crackling with energy. Her dancing breathed as one with the singers' vocal lines.

For each tale, she took time to introduce the narrative with bits of dialogue and some imagery we'd notice along the way. For example, for Night, she previewed carefully inscribed gestures for "moon" and "waves." However, nothing prepared us for how deeply affecting these same simple gestures would be in their danced context and, especially, in Srinivasan's full-out, shapely performance.

Of one piece, Navarasa, Srinivasan noted, "It is up to the audience to taste the emotions" of the Divine Mother. Throughout the evening, she inspired us to taste a bit of everything, easily winning the rapt focus of her huge audience. Everything artificial, beyond her sacred circle, simply disappeared.

Transcendant Arts of Tibet & India is now closed. For information on future artsBrookfield programs at Winter Garden and elsewhere, click here.

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