It was transcendent choreography bathed in beautiful mis-en-scene; the movement of each dancer channeling poetic stories of love from centuries ago. Amorous Delight came back for a second time due to its initial success last year and Sutra Foundation brought it back stronger and better.
Inspired by the 9th century Sanskrit couplets on Love called Amarushataka, Amorous Delight is an odissi production with a modern tinged, with dance composition and artistic direction by Meera Das and Ramli Ibrahim and performed by Sutra Dancers. As part of the Sutra Outreach Dance Program it also included dancers from SJK (Tamil) Kajang & Ladang Sg Choh.
Beyond dance, the Amarushataka has been visualized and illustrated by Indian chitrakar (traditional painters) over centuries from different parts of India, thus a small art exhibition outside of the stage hall was held (by Jyoti Swain, Sivarajah Natarajan, AV Ilango, Dillip Tripathy and Ramli Ibrahim) as though to pay homage to this historical truth. Since the Sanskrit anthology focuses more on erotic flavours of love (sringara rasa) , the illustrations depicted delicate scenes of sexual encounters in bright thematic colours – some in more cubist styles, and others truer to the stye of the Sharanakula master of Nayagarh district, Odisha, where the visual images were depicted on palm-leaf (pothi). The small gallery truly set the mood for what’s to come.
(Photo credit; Amorous Delight’s Facebook)
The performance itself was captivating visually and aurally. Ramli Ibrahim juggled fluidity and sharpness – finding balance between the two – with such panache. In fact, the entire dance ensemble from the Sutra Dance Theatre was phenomenal, with the likes of Tan Mei Mei and Geethika Sree embodying their nayika (heroine) roles gracefully; especially during moments of coy endearment or coquettish joy. The Amarushataka contains hundreds of poetic verses, and only five of those were taken for the performance. However, each of the sloka represents a different point in the spectrum of erotic love, thus making the feat of all the dancers transitioning into different roles all the more amazing. The movements were accentuated by the beautiful visual designs in the backdrop, heavily guided and inspired by the late Dr. Dinanath Pathy, with lighting masterfully orchestrated by Sivarajah Natarajan. Even the costume designs were resplendent, owing the simple yet magnificent sheen to the creativity of Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran.
Ramli Ibrahim, Meera Das & Sutra Collectives’ choreography and artistic direction brought everything together seamlessly. Although so many things were going on at once: nothing was distracting, everything was in sync, cohesive in taking you to a mythical world fitting epic sagas of yore.
The best part is the fact that there was no inaccessible mysticism to the performance. The narration and concepts applied on the staged made it easy for someone who is not familiar with the art of odissi to embrace. Every expression, every subtle nuances of body language, pointedly told in each movement. Amorous Delight is a classic that does not repel the newly initiated by its age and archaic nature (the same way some Shakespeareans and Chinese operas do), since it is conveyed with clarity in its creative decisions.
The main inspiration for art has always been love –
Smt Leela Ventakaraman
Although the purity of ancient art is a legitimate factor to consider, accessibility is the only way to ensure that dying crafts are preserved. Amorous Delight delicately treads this middle ground that is necessary to instill love upon the newer, younger audience. Before the play started, Smt Leela Venkataraman gave a few words to explain the anthology that inspired the performance, i.e. Amarashutaka. “The main inspiration for art has always been love”, she said as her opening. More than a reflection upon the Amarashutaka, the statement speaks resounding truth; conserving an art form with a legacy starts with love.