Any collaborative experiment between two different cultural vocabularies is rife with challenges. Before any journey begins, comes the concept. The result of this journey for Chi Udaka was showcased in a three day production as part of the Sydney Festival 2014 at the York Theatre of Seymour Centre.
Both Ian Cleworth and Anandavalli, the artistic directors of this production deserve to be congratulated for this ambitious project – Chi Udaka – Water and Earth !
As in any collaboration it is difficult to balance the depth and breadth of each artistic form into a one hour capsule. Did the production do justice to these artforms ? Perhaps that question in itself is an ambitious one. Perhaps it requires the right number of seasons together to blossom into its promised land of grace and scintillating greatness.
With great anticipation, the show begins to the low droning sounds of taikoz drummers under muted lights as Riley Lee plays his Shakuhachi and is joined by the cellist John Napier and Aruna Parthiban on Vocals. The music later is transformed into pure rhythmic sounds and then the nattuvangam, vocal percussion by Anandavalli. That starting point showed immense promise and set the rhythmic pace for the evening.
The dancers then join the drumming and steadfastly dance to the same rythms. From that point on the evening gradually grows with the largeness of the Taikoz drummers as the nymph like grace of the Bharathanatyam dancers form a contrast.
Anandavalli’s choreography excels in one of the segments where two dancers and three drummers begin their exchanges. The two dancers form a ball of wave that grows and enlarges with each rise and fall of the tidal rhythms of the Taikoz drummers.
For the rest of the evening the drummers muscular physique and large choreography dominated the dancers in their nymph like expressionless portrayal making them seem like a secondary act. As respite from all that exciting rhythm, came the wonderful musicality of Cellist Dr John Napier whose soulful playing is the shore upon which rests the music of this production joined in parts by Riley Lee and Vocalist Aruna Parthiban.
A great effort in the first instance. A fantastic concept. As a connoisseur of Indian Classical Arts some thing was greatly missing from this production – A Mridangist !