Dance Works

God creates, I do not create.
I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it –
from what I see, from what the dancers can do,
from what others do...
GEORGE BALANCHINE

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SWARANJALI

Realising brahma asmi through swaras
2014

The composer has combined both the svara (pitch) syllables and the rhythmic solfege. The seven notes sa ri ga ma pa dha ni are explored, each svara having a deity, a rasa, an animal and a colour that signifies it. The composition points at the evolution of the scale that originated from Vedic chant, with three notes, udhatta, anudhatta and svarita. The text also refers to the powerful Indian mystic syllable Om.

The rhyming and rhetorical use of the syllable ni that follows the syllabic words epitomises the ultimate philosophical and spiritual truth, namely the worship of Brahma, which is beyond form, shape, religion, etc, and that which is within oneself (Brahma asmi) and not elsewhere.

Raga Purvikalyani Tala Rupaka
Composer & Author Tirugokaranam Subbarama Bhagavatar
Choreography Leela Samson

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PADAM

What is he like, o friend?
2013

What kind of man is he, o friend? He never visits this street.

O lady with curls, I believe his name is Muvvagopala!

He is dark complexioned, has charming ways, speaks sweetly and dalliance is his nature. Romance is reputed to be his wealth!

I hear he truly knows how to please a woman.

Raga Neelambari Tala Tisra Triputa
Author & Composer Kshetragna
Choreography Leela Samson

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KALYANI

The raga explored
2010

An exploration of the Raga Kalyani, a favorite of composers and rasikas and much loved in the Karnatak music tradition.

Raga Kalyani Tala Aadi
Arrangement O.S. Arun
Composition Tanjore Quardette
Choreography Leela Samson

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STHAYI SANCHAR

The descent of Ganga
2006

‘O Ganga, adorning the head of Lord Shiva, protect me. You have a majestic form and are fond of music. You make the progenitor of Manmatha, Lord Vishnu, happy. You have a slender waist like the thin stream that flows between the Asi and Varuna rivers. You are worshipped by Sage Akrura and bestow happiness on all. You are the origin of all sacred waters. You sport with the virtuous Guruguha. You are the esteemed daughter of Jahnu and are benevolent towards the Sage Vyasa and others.’

Sancharis that are typical of Varanasi are used in the depiction: peela chadaana, when women drape the river goddess with yellow saris, while others set lamps out on the river with good tidings for their distant beloveds; the sandhya vandanam and cremations on the banks that liberate the souls of the deceased; and the celebrated Ganga aarti, when at sundown all the bells of the riverside temples ring at once and lamps are held aloft in praise of the river.

Raga Janjuti Tala Khanda Eka
Author & Composer Muttuswami Dikshitar
Choreography Leela Samson

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SPANDA MAATRIKA

The five time-cycles
1995

Spanda Maatrika embraces the maatras or beats and, in doing so, reduces movement to its essence. It is a journey inwards seeking the essential ‘centre’, the origin of movement and its source of strength. On one level it attempts to internalise the consciousness of the dancer towards the particular movement rather than on the composition of the whole. On another level the composition challenges the dancer to an acute awareness of her external surroundings – the space she moulds, of other forms that the space holds, of her desires, of their reality. It explores the dynamics of the style.

Spanda Maatrika is based on the pancha jaatis or five time-cycles – chatushram, tishram, mishram, khandam and sankeernam (4, 3, 7, 5, 9) – that are so critical in Indian music systems. It seeks to elicit their mood, character and varying use in the movements of bharatanatyam.

Composer O.S. Arun
Choreography Leela Samson

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AAKASH

Space
1995

Using shlokas from the Vedas, the dancer discovers space, explores it, and celebrates it – through movement. Aakash is the universe. Its garbha or womb is Prithvi, the earth. All life emanates from this centre, explores outwards, interacting constantly with the space that surrounds it, nurtures it, gives it form and being. The life force of the dancer is the nabha – from this centre all movement emanates. The relationship of the human form to the universe about him is captured beautifully in the Rg Veda. The Purusha is said to have sacrificed his body, from whose parts the cosmic elements were born.

Composer Madhup Mudgal
Choreography Leela Samson

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ATISHAYA

A wondrous feat

When Krishna hears cries of distress from the village folk, he rushes to the river to see the poisonous cobra-king Kalinga tormenting them. He jumps into the river, fights with the serpent, vanquishes him and dances triumphantly on his hood. Moved by the pleas of Kalinga’s wives to spare his life, Krishna banishes him to the oceans. The villagers rejoice at Krishna’s feet and celebrate his victory over the serpent king with song and dance.

Raga Charukesi, Hamsanandi and Bimpalas Tala Eka
Author Purandaradasa
Composer Rajkumar Bharati
Choreography Leela Samson

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JAVALI

Abhinaya

A vipralabdha nayika speaks to her sakhi thus,
“She has used magical tricks to separate us, o friend.
While on a swing, both of us flirted in love play. She saw our graceful spectacle and was jealous.
While on our bed, my Lord undid my upper garment and fondled my breast. He excited me in so many ways. She was unable to bear our joy.
When alone with my beloved – ever joyful and pleasant, we bet on feasting on each other’s lips. This was unbearable for her to watch.
She has used magical practices to separate us, o friend.”

Composer Madhup Mudgal
Choreography Leela Samson