Mimesis – a word with a classical pedigree. The imitation of life in art and literature.
As the sun set on 31 August 2018, and the skies opened up and suburban Sydney was awash with a heavy splash from the skies, a few interested people came together and experienced ‘Mimesis- Meghendra Indra’, an intercultural art performance presented by Shrikant Subramaniam-dancer, raconteur and choreographer from the UK.
Embedded in the rich tradition of Bharatanatyam and an eclectic mix of classical Indian Carnatic and Hindustani music, along with sound scapes of West African origin, Shrikant Subramaniam wove a beautiful tapestry of a particular narrative about Indra – the God of War from the Vedic times in India.
Music was composed by David Aldred (UK) and Ozzy Mosey (UK). The live performance of Sumathi Krishnan (Sydney) a fine vocalist trained in both the Carnatic and Hindustani traditions of Classical Indian music also contributed to the performance enriching it further. It was fascinating.
The performance was movement, sound and words all interwoven seamlessly with magic and wonder, drawing upon the key themes of creation, life, death and rebirth expressing the symbiotic inter connectivity of life and water.
Water – that essence of life. It seemed a bit ironic because the Indian diaspora in Sydney was still reeling from the floods in Kerala (India) and the biggest drought in NSW (Australia). And yet life as we know it is impossible without water.
Shrikant, a story teller par excellence had his audience enthralled as he danced and narrated the story of Indra-the Lord of War, and his adversary- the demon Vritra. A simple story where the demon swallows all the bodies of water and holds it in his belly resulting in extreme drought, till such time that Meghendra Indra with his powerful ‘vajra’ (thunderbolt) vanquishes Vritra and ends the drought, bringing life back in all its glory.
The intensity and interweaving of movement, music, sound and expression is what was captivating about the presentation. The intermittent interaction with the audience with the intermittent seamless live musical inputs by Sumathi Krishnan only enhanced the experience, and made it a personal one for those present.
Initially choreographed for an audience engagement program at the York Theatre Royal in England, for an audience of mixed and special abilities and age range, the item was interactive with very clever use of sounds, movement and vocal repetitions.
Shrikant’s intensity in expressing an emotion is spellbinding and riveting. He speaks as he moves and expresses, supported by music, and so the moment is visual, aural and emotive all at once. It grabs you by your senses and your guts.
The conclusion was very appropriate with the Indra shloka from the Rig Veda in the Hindustani raag Shyam Kalyan composed and recited by Sumathi Krishnan.
Bharathanatyam, the classical south Indian temple dance form is a lofty one. It is a visual performing art. Traditionally performed, the melody and rhythm of music with an array of accompaniments, the vocals, the geometry of movement, the colour and the costume with which it is expressed all awakens the senses. It is always a treat. But here Shrikant stripped the art form of its many layers and it morphed into a pure expression of movement, emotion and sound with a deep and raw intensity. It was the most unique art experience, and will surely be remembered by the audience for a long time.
Story time was followed by an interactive session where Shrikant awoke the dancer within every individual. It was refreshing to see all present give it their all, albeit for a few minutes. This was followed by question time.
The interweaving of traditional musical and dance forms with non-traditional sounds once again proved the fact that expressions of art transcends differences, has the power to touch the heart, evoke the senses and create an intimate experience within oneself.