I am not a trained dancer – in any tradition. Indian dancing is literally quite foreign to me. It is not part of my culture and I only encountered it for the first time as an adult. To add to the exotic mystique of Indian dancing is the fact that Johannesburg audiences seldom get to see it performed. Thus it is with a great deal of curiosity that I always head out to the dance component of the Shared History: The Indian Experience Festival.
This year our dancer was the Bhartanatyam style dancer, Gayatri Sriram. I went through on 12 September 2013 to watch her perform at Wits Theatre.
So here are my distinctly non-fundi impressions.
Gayatri Sriram is more than a dancer, more than an artist. She is, indeed, an artwork of her own creation as well. She is stunningly beautiful with an apparently perfect figure and arms and legs that compose themselves into precise sculptures, still for a moment, then fluidly they move into the next pose.
The dance comes from deep inside her and her effortless grace and poise are so exquisite that one wishes she would never stop. In fact she nearly didn’t stop. A solo dancer, the programme was almost two hours long, the strenuous movement broken only by her narration of the story, the emotions, that were to follow each explanation. I was caught up in her passion, her presence and her ability to create not only one character, but distinct multiple characters.
I was mesmerised. My thanks to Gayatri Sriram, and to Teamworx for having brought this stunning dancer to South Africa, together with her ensemble of live musicians, Gurumurthy Gampalahally (mrudangam), Vivek Venugopala Krishna (flute), Minal Dayanand Prabhu (nattuvangam) and Balasubramanyam Sharma (vocals).
The work she presented was called Dwitayam (Duality), but I think it did not matter. It was the beauty of the movements, the vividness of the expression and the reality of the emotions which attracted me to her, to her dance. I was truly touched.