I spent my Saturday evening in the heart of the cultural hub of Newtown, Johannesburg at the Dance Factory played host to one of the world’s most entrancing dance masters Shree Nrityagram being an all-female troupe, where both male and female concepts are performed by women. The troupe’s 3 finest dancers: Surupa Sen, the artistic director, and Bijayini Satpathy and Pavithra Reddy. Likened to Indian art, “Vibhakta” is religious and at the same time very sexy and powerful in all respects
The lobby of the venue filled up very quickly where tickets were handed out to guests by invite and limited seats only. I spotted Prakash Desai, CEO of Avusa Media, Sanjoy Roy playing gracious host to all who were in attendance. Zaheda Mohammed looking extremely tired although she made up for it with her stunning outfit which got my thumbs up but was in full form as she co-ordinated guests around the venue prior to the shows start.
With the Hindu fast in full swing the bar was rather lonely. Most opted for a non-alcoholic drink which was good to see this time round. The atmosphere was very hushed in the lobby. I almost felt as if I was at a morgue. I chatted to Manju Pather of Honeydew and Geetha Khaki of Zakkariya Park. When Geetha mentioned where she came from I nearly choked. I particularly am not a fan of long distances so I could relate to her. But nevertheless they took the time out to experience the Shree performance.
The odissi classical dance style form from Eastern India was simply breathtaking. I took my time to swank in and settled in at the very top of the makeshift scaffolded seating to have an eagles eye view of the stage. I spotted Terrence Kommal of Sutra busying himself on his phone prior to the performance, this prompted Ankur to request everyone to power off their phones to give the Shree their time undisturbed. The evening-length program was entrancing and beautiful, and the Oriya music, played on traditional instruments, is rhythmically complex and melodically transporting. But it is the dancers—gorgeous, flexible, sensual, lucid—and the amazingly fresh and well-composed choreography, by Surupa Sen, that keep you trembling in your seat. The audience were in awe at the opening piece of the Namaskriti which magically unfolded the tale of the elephant God, Ganapati.
The Kuruyadu Nandan routine was very sexual in nature but purely arty farty, which enacted the love of Radha and Krishna. I picked up that some of the guests were uncomfortable with the story of the omnipotent One engaged in lustful play with Radha.
The last routine was pure magic for me, The Vibhakta (the division) unpacked the concept of Shiva in his male and female form. This performance was the groundbreaker in all respects. Emotions had run high with this performance that engaged the audience to murmur in appreciation of the performance. The Vibhakta led to a resounding applaud and standing ovation which lasted for about 2 minutes, Sunjoy then proceeded to offer his thanks to the sponsors and also made special mention of the Sunday Times and their active involvement in making Shared History a success. Desai was called up to accept a gift from Sunjoy, pity I never got anything this time round. The Shree Nrityagram Dance group had left their mark upon every person who watched them this evening. I swanked off the scaffolded seating structure carefully hoping to not bale over Desai as he moved just below me. An evening of swanking in the cultural hub left me with thoughts of signing up for dance lessons on Monday morning. An experience that left me and all others amazed and stunned at the brilliance of our colourful heritage.