Dance drama: Shri Durga.
Dance drama: Shri Durga.

Revisiting mythologies

Where Meera never cries and Durga is manifest in the world around usmyths for modern-day viewers

Arms held out like he’s already wearing the coveted armour of the warrior he is channelling, dancer Shiburam Mohanta is in rehearsal for the production of Karna. Days before the show opens at the 11th Festival Of Ballets stage in New Delhi, the cast is trying out something new. Choreographer Shashidharan Nair wants to see what happens when dancers follow the rhythm, rather than the lyrics, in the music.

If Mohanta is fazed by having to follow the one-two-three... count of the rhythm rather than take his cues from the recorded dialogue, he doesn’t show it. “It is challenging," admits Nair.

But he is drawn inextricably to the experiment. To realize this vision, he pushes his dancers to unlearn the idea of emoting what the words are saying; to dissociate the spoken word from the dance movement, so they can run parallel to each other and perhaps convey two distinct narratives to the perceptive viewer.

Karna is one of four productions that will be staged by the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) at the 11th Festival Of Ballets starting in New Delhi today. The other productions that will be shown during the festival are Meera, Shri Durga and Kumar Sambhava.

SBKK director Shobha Deepak Singh, who is also the director of this festival, says the idea is to capture how these stories are relevant to audiences today.

In Meera, for example, the protagonist dances with abandon and “never cries", Singh says. She does not have any supernatural ability to survive a drink of poison. Singh adds that in the SBKK production, the poison is shown to be a stand-in for the ill-treatment of Meera by a patriarchal society.

The takeaway for audiences, Singh hopes, is that they will realize these stories aren’t past their use-by date. Her Durga, she says, is not some “far gone goddess", but is manifest in the brave acts of ordinary women today.

The Festival Of Balletsstarts today with Meera, 7pm, at Kamani Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi. Passes, available at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, 1, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi (43503333 /23386428/29).