October 31 2014
Bharatanatyam specialist Seeta Patel was commissioned by Sadler’s Wells to present a new piece of work and curate another, the result was mesmirising…
By Suman Bhuchar
‘WILD CARD‘ is an initiative that allows emerging dancers to present their own work and showcase the work of another artist.
Dancer, Seeta Patel (pictured above), a very talented Bharatanatyam practioner, has opted to explore her own classical roots and training in this Indian classical dance form through a single piece work.
As for her curated piece at Sadler’s Wells (effectively, the leading venue for British dance), she chose to invite the dancer/choreographer/teacher, Pushkala Gopal (also a Bharatanatyam specialist) to sing or vocalise ‘abhinaya’ love songs from ‘Carnatica’.
The first piece, performed by Patel is part of a traditional repertoire and deals with the separation of the heroine from Lord Krishna and how she asks her friend ‘sakhi’ to bring him to her.
She is accompanied on stage by five Carnatic musicians, who excel in their art froms: Y. Yadavan, a wonderful vocalist, Madhusoodanam on flute, Bhavani Shankar on percussion, Achuthan Sripathmanathan on violin, all conducted and mentored by dancer and choreographer, Mavin Khoo, who has been a remarkable teacher, guiding Patel in her desire to delve deeper into the craft of Bharatanatyam.
“I feel extremely privileged to have someone of his calibre cross my path” she said. “My progress has become more towards my physical practices as a soloist and Mavin is constantly challenging me and makes me think as a Bharatanatyam artist.”
Patel is alone on the vast stage of the Lilian Baylis studio and at first she is hidden in the shadows and later emerges into the light. She is mesmerizing to watch and I find myself being swept away with the emotional grace of her movements as well as the accompanying live sound.
Patel has been dancing for several years now and she can be found engaging in a lot of contemporary work, from working with the DV8 Physical theatre company to workshopping the show, “Can We Talk about This?” as well as with Akademi, where she is highly regarded.
Her amusing film, “The Art of Defining Me” explores how she resists being pigeonholed into any ‘ethnic categories,’ and her desire to curate an evening which appears to be ‘traditional’ on the surface but makes you feel that she is testing the maturity of her audience as well as developing her own artistic grounding.
At the post show discussion Patel was passionate in defending her artistic choices.
“Right from the start, I never had a doubt that this was the place I wanted to do it, because it’s exciting to be able to bring something that I love so much and I have been championing for a while. The music is just about music. It’s not about Indian dance or this dance or that dance,” said Patel.
The second part of the evening was a rare opportunity to hear dancer, Pushkala Gopal – singing ‘abhinaya’ a song verbal expression of ‘the art of expressing emotion in any given art form’, as outlined in the ancient Indian treatise, the “Natya Shastra” by Sage Bharata – this section seemed a tad too long but the English explanations were helpful.
Gopal (- along with the accompanying musicians and supporting vocalist, Divya Kasturi -) does have a beautiful voice and she sang a range of songs which were about “love in different moods”.
This curatorial event is really exploring whether such classical art forms are ‘traditional’ or ‘modern’, and their relevance in contemporary culture. Personally, I look forward to seeing more of this high quality and thought-provoking work, and it will be interesting to see Patel perform the same piece a few years down the line.
ACV rating: **** (out of five stars)
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadlers Wells Wednesday, 25 September 2014, Wild Card by Seeta Patel, ‘Something Then, Something now’
The next ‘Wild Card‘ is http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2014/wild-card-neil-callaghan/
A new season starting from January 2015 will be announced by Sadler’s Wells shortly…