When a new original work comes onto the scene, it is surrounded by curiosity, excitement and obvious creativity. From the Mahabharata: The Great Dance-Off, AtticRep’s latest production to grace the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater stage at the Tobin Center, embodies all the anticipatory energy encompassing its premiere, along with a welcome mysticism.
|AtticRep's From the Mahabharata: The Great Dance-Off.|
Photo by Amitava Sarkar.
Since the premise of the production is that the dance company is in rehearsal, the dancers are not quite synchronized or as crisp as a polished recital. This rawness reiterates the experience of attending a premiere, especially as the audience is invited to feel as though they are part of the process in creating this work. While the acting leaves something to be desired, the few scenes of prose readings are both entertaining and insightful. One storyteller chronicles the confusing genealogy of princes as another exchanges offers insight into Dharma, karma, serenity and the path to enlightenment. These scenes speak to the complexity, tradition and constant need for self-evolution in not only Indian culture, but all of humanity.
A string box contains the dance floor as a balanced display of both Indian and contemporary styles set the scene and crescendo into the dance-off in perfect rhythm with Reena Esmail’s original score. Seme Jatib’s modern choreography seems ethereal as the long lines of the dancer’s bodies play against a somewhat smokey bare stage. Just as the staccato movements of Kausi Subramaniam’s traditional dances begin to feel repetitive, a change in tempo and mood revitalizes the action. Violinist Ananda Nadayogi enhances the experience with live accompaniament while Scenic Designer Jeremiah Teutsch brings puppets to life. Along with an evocative lighting design by Gaila Raymer, an undulating liquid seemed manipulated by the dancers as they moved in front of the projection, their shadows cast against the colored forms. The production design coupled with the choreography reflects the magic and mystery synonymous with Indian culture.
Not a traditional theatre production in the least, or an expected dance performance, From the Mahabharata is more of an experience, a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating performance art. It offers an energetic and exciting escape into an unfamiliar culture with a different take on the battle waged between old and new, contemporary and traditional. AtticRep’s From the Mahabharata: The Great Dance-Off is at times exhilarating, inspiring and thought-provoking if approached with an open mind and willingness to embrace a new cultural experience.
From the Mahabharata: The Great Dance-Off runs at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center through June 14 with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit atticrep.org.