By Manju Sampat
Mumbai audiences were treated to a veritable feast of dance ballet this week by the Battery Dance Company from New York. They were brought to Mumbai under the aegis of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations and the Embassy of the United States of America. Thanks to them the brilliant dance ballet “Shakti” was performed at Bandra’s St. Andrews Auditorium.
The Battery Dance Company, have performed in India many times before, in fact this is their sixth visit here, but they are returning after a gap of twelve years. Their Artistic Director, Jonathan Hollander is an old India hand. He confesses that he saw “the Jhaveri sisters dance fifty years ago and heard our beautiful Krishna Radha stories, and he was hooked to India and its culture”!
This years’s tour by the Battery Dance Company is being conducted to commemorate their fortieth anniversary and their program encompasses India and the empowerment of women. Therefore it was most apt that they performed their brilliantly choreographed dance ballet “Shakti: A Return to the Source”. This powerfully choreographed piece by Jonathan Hollander, is outstanding in its originality and music, which has been composed and sung by the famed duo Rajan and Sajan Mishra. Sung in raag ‘Durga’, the music is an invocation to the power of the goddess Durga and her many facets..”Jai Durga Mata Jai Jai”. The accompanying dance ballet evokes the sentiment of ‘Bhakti’ and the devotional love of the goddess. The three principal female dancers of the ballet company enact the various iconic poses and facets of Durga, while the three male dancers pose in silent prayer and veneration. The choreography draws its inspiration from Indian classical dance and music. Hollander and the principal dancers of his company have been ably joined by the brilliant Bharat Natyam dancer Unnath Hassan Rathnaraju from Karnataka, and together they have beautifully captured the essence of Shakti, the female principle of divine energy.
The program also included a dance piece called “Observatory”, which the group choreographed after their one month tour of South Africa. There was also a well danced Bharat Natyam work by Unnath Hassan as well as an exquisitly choreographed ballet entitled “Terra and Astra”. This was a wonderful combination of modern dance and ballet and the fluid dance movements portrayed the celestial planets in our cosmos, as well as the earthly relationship between Man and Woman. The accompanying music, especially the strong cello sound was most apt. The superb dancing in this entire show was a sheer delight for our senses!