By Lauren Warnecke
15 June 2019
Perhaps I’ll start at the end. In the post-performance Q&A for “The Internal Geometry,” a world premiere by Natya Dance Theatre at Links Hall, artistic director Hema Rajagopalan spoke about the origins of Bharatanatyam. The traditional South Indian dance began in the temples as an artistic language imparted by the gods to communicate the scriptures though rhythm, expression and drama. It’s a tradition spanning 3,000 years, often used to depict stories steeped in Hindu mythology and part of many children’s cultural and spiritual upbringing.
It is a relatively new development that Bharatanatyam is performed in concert dance venues. And while Western audiences generally get that dance can be equally entertaining and enlightening, this is often less true about dance forms whose cultural origins lie outside the French courts.
So, while audience members (like this critic) unfamiliar with Hindu mythology or the meanings of each hand gesture or shift of the eyes in Bharatanatyam might be there to simply soak in the intoxicating physicality and mesmerizing rhythms of this extraordinary dance form, Rajagopalan reminded us that the goal isn’t entertainment, but “Rasa,” the spiritual enlightenment of the viewer and a deeper connectivity to the gods.
This is perhaps why transitions between the vignettes of “The Internal Geometry” are narrated on a gargled microphone from Rajagopalan’s perch in Links Hall’s light booth, and indeed, Natya often includes English translations or explanations of the stories to appeal to a wide audience. “The Internal Geometry” is a pared-down presentation, with recorded music and a few simple light cues, uncharacteristic for Natya, but typical of most things in Links Hall’s white box theater. Even the dancers were just a bit less adorned than usual, “The Internal Geometry’s” six women wearing relatively simple traditional costumes with characteristic make-up and ankle bells, plus a few personalized necklaces and bracelets.
Read the full article in The Chicago Tribune.