A tale of two ‘Swan Lakes’
Two versions of Tchaikovsky’s famous Russian ballet—one a re-run and the other an original composition in Odissi—will play in Bengaluru and Delhi this weekend
As a young girl growing up in Kolkata in the 1970s, Sharmila Mukerjee, founder of the Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance in Bengaluru, was fascinated by ballet and the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
Every year, Mukerjee choreographs and directs an Odissi dance drama, and, this year she has chosen to reinterpret the classic Russian ballet Swan Lake, originally composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky in 1875-76.
“Given that there are so many interpretations of Swan Lake, I chose my version to suit the dance form, Indian sentimentality, and my way of thinking,” adds Mukerjee, who has played on the rivalry between two dancers in her production, Hansika.
Like Swan Lake, Hansika tells the story of a prince who falls in love with a princess who turns into a swan every morning owing to a spell cast by a sorceress. “Odissi is full of beautiful animal movements so it suits this particular ballet, which is full of graceful swan movements. The sculptural poses and intricate footwork in Odissi lend themselves naturally to the fabric of ballet,” says the danseuse, who will be enacting the role of the sorceress, while her students, Abhaya Lakshmi and Surajit Som,will play the lead roles of the princess and prince, respectively.
“I have stuck to the aesthetic of the original ballet. It’s visually very appealing,” adds Mukerjee, who has been working on this production for over a year. Clad in classic Odissi style white saris , the 25 dancers from Sanjali will trade the traditional spired floral headgear for ones made with feathers. “But we will wear our traditional Odissi jewellery,” she adds. The hour-long dance drama will be interspersed with a narration in English, with music by Praveen D. Rao.
Hansika will be staged at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Malleswaram at 6.30pm on 31 March. Tickets, Rs500 to Rs3,000, available on Bookmyshow.com
When production house Navrasa Duende brought the Swan Lake ballet to India, there were apprehensions that they might not find an audience.
“Last September, we had five shows of Tchaikovsky’s ballet in Delhi. Everyone advised us against it,” says Dinesh B. Singh, founder of Navrasa Duende.
Their fears proved to be unfounded. The first season of Swan Lake was a sell-out.
Singh hopes season 2 will be no different.
“The great thing about a classic like this is that it is not just timeless but also caters to all ages,” says Singh.
The second season will see minimal changes in execution, and none in the plot. Director Anatoliy Kazatskiy explains: “The latest production is much grander in scale and spectacle as compared to our previous tour. We have also experimented a bit with the costumes and stage design for this production, to match the grandness of the play. Also, considering that the number and frequency of shows being performed is much greater, we have two pairs of lead artists who will play the principal characters of Prince Siegfried and Princess Odette/Odile.”
The ballet remains a favourite because it encompasses various emotions and themes—eternal love, passion, melancholy.
“What’s different, and probably the best thing, about performing in Delhi is that the audience here is quite knowledgeable about various musical and dance genres. Moreover, they are extremely curious about new artistic experiences,” says Kazatskiy.
Swan Lake will be performed at the JLN stadium, Delhi (30 March-1 April), the Gujarat University Convention & Exhibition Centre, Ahmedabad (6-8 April), and Nazrul Mancha, Kolkata (12-14 April). Timings and ticket rates vary. Tickets, available on Bookmyshow.com.
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