As anyone who’s ever seen a Bollywood film can attest, Indian culture has a unique and wonderful kinship with spectacle. The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble of India is no exception, and its upcoming performance at Campbell Hall promises to be an over-the-top and wholly splendid example of the historical and cultural richness that India has to offer.
Nrityagram achieves its flawless and unified routines through fascinating means: The members of the company have all lived and worked together for years, perfecting their technique and solidifying their understanding of the ensemble’s goals. In 1990, the founder of the group, Protima Gauri, set up a 10-acre compound on which the troupe could live and study. Nrityagram, literally translated, means “dance village,” which expresses the intent of the group-
to create a community that transcends dance itself. And the group has spent its time on far more than just dance; its members have studied Sanskrit, martial arts, and poetry and immersed themselves in the history of their country’s spiritual traditions.
Part yoga, part religious and spiritual expression, and part pure theatrics, Nrityagram’s new dance, Pratima: Reflection is based on Odissi, a dance style that has been in existence in India for thousands of years. Odissi combines traditionally feminine and masculine styles, and this essential duality extends to the purpose of the dance, which Nrityagram intends as a union of the human and the divine. Nrityagram’s past dances have been hailed by critics as both sensual and transcendent, exemplifying both the most human and the most spiritual elements of the dancers.
Enhanced by traditional costumes and by new music commissioned from modern Indian composers, Nrityagram’s take on the country’s history and spirituality is fresh and new, despite the millennia of background it encompasses. The extraordinary dedication of the ensemble is traditional, but its experience is of the modern world, and the juxtaposition makes for an amazing performance.
Nrityagram will perform at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Thursday, April 3, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 general/$19 UCSB students. Call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu for more info.