It was an excellent weekend for dance at Williams as the college hosted two student performances. The fluid movements and technical precision of the Williams College Dance Company captured the unwavering attention of the 150 people who crowded into Lasell Dance Studio last Saturday evening to see the Company’s final performance of the school year. Equally transfixing was the Sunday night performance of classical Indian dance by Medha Kirtane ’00. Kirtane’s performance was sponsored by the Southeast Asian Students Association in conjunction with Asian Awareness Month.
Williams College Dance Company
For their Saturday performance, the Williams College Dance Company presented twelve dances, which ranged from traditional works to innovative modern dances performed to spoken word selections. The performance opened with “20*90,” a piece that combined the music of Deee-Lite and 20’s dance steps from the Charleston. The program then took on a more serious tone for a solo performance by Naima Glover ’99, who used restrained gestures to portray a struggle against one’s own deep emotions.
Shabaki Lambert ’98 and Denise Connor ’99 performed the third dance of the night. Dressed in knee-length, scarlet dresses, the two danced in perfect unison, looking like mirror images of each other. The striking precision of their motions was especially evident during the first part of the dance, performed in total silence. Elba Holguin Urenda ’99 was the first dancer of the night to dance to a spoken word piece. She entered the stage completely covered by a beige robe As she danced, the spoken words “watch the hands” were repeated, forming an eerie mantra. Urenda emphasized the gestures of her arms and hands, symbollically covered in red, blue, and grey paint to represent blood and sweat. Also in the first act of the recital was a large group performance entitled “Lucid,” in which the dancers used chairs as props; an intense solo performance entitled “Surfacing the Calm,” choreographed and presented by Kelly Shin ’99; and “Collections,” which was choreographed by Leigh Gold ’98.
The second act opened with a large group performance of a piece entitled “Finding a Center: A Work in Progress.” Each dancer performed in a separate plane of reference, oblivious to the motions of the other dancers, yet the piece was a unified work. Vanessa Caskey ’00 performed to the text of 11:20 Galeao Airport. Using both a chair and slide projector displaying a seascape scene, the mood of Caskey’s piece varied from childish joy and amusement to boredom and even extreme fear. One of the more innovatively costumed pieces of the night was the mechanical “Bodies of Radical Will” in which the dancers wore fencing masks. The most popular performance of the night was “Death to Your Rodeo,” choreographed and danced by Will Rawls ’00, the only male dancer in the company. Rawls showed great technical skill, precision and speed in this fast-paced, intricate piece. The final dance number was performed by the entire company. As the dancers moved first to the quasi-classical music and then to a tribal beat, they were slowly transformed from fluid dancers to stiff, zombie-like creatures. Combining light, fun pieces with heavier, somber dances, the Company showed off a wide range of skills.
Medha Kirtane’s Indian Dance
On Sunday night, Medha Kirtane, a student of classical Indian dance for fourteen years, entertained a moderate-sized crowd in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall with a breathtaking solo performance filled with dramatic grace and emotional rhythms. Kirtane has been a professional dancer since September of 1994, when she had her Arangetram, or graduation, from the Padmini Institute of Fine Arts in New Jersey.
Kirtane performed a style of classical dance called Bharata Natyam, which originated as a temple dance in southern India. Bharata Natyam is derived from the Indian words for expression, melody through song, rhythm, and dance. During the dance, the evocative synthesis of these elements results in the moving drama of sight and sound. Kirtane performed five dances; each dance served a particular religious purpose or told a story. So the audience would better understand the dance, Ami Parekh ’01, who emceed the event, summarized each story prior to the dances while Kirtane demonstrated the actions that corresponded to the dance’s key words and ideas.
Kirtane took the stage dressed in brilliant gold and red attire, with an ornate flowered headdress. First she performed Pushpanjali, in which she asked for the blessings of both the god Ganesh and of the audience; Ganesh, who is the son of Shiva, the god of the dance. In the second dance, Kirtane played the role of Madhavi, who came to Earth to bestow the gift of the dance upon the people of Tami Inadu in South India. As Kirtane deftly moved through dozens of positions and gestures, she showed her skill in various forms of dance. In her dances, two of the seated poses and two of the standing poses of Lord Shiva with amazing balance and precision. Kirtane also astonished the audience with her acting ability, as she smoothly demonstrated various emotions with her animated facial expressions, ranging from anger to peaceful bliss. Kirtane’s third dance was a performance of Sri Gurudva’s poem about Dasha Vatara, meaning the ten incarnations of the God Vishnu. This story is one of great happiness and rejoicing because within it, one of Vishnu’s incarnations saved the earth from evil forces. Throughout the performance, Kirtane seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself. The rhythmic energy of the dance was incredibly compelling causing the audience to revel in this glimpse of the sublime.
After a brief intermission, Kirtane returned in a dress of vivid yellow and black. She proceeded to perform a traditional folk dance in honor of Lord Muruga, the other son of Shiva. She played the role of a village girl who tells the story of how Muruga destroyed everyone’s sorrows and brought joy to the world. The audience was encouraged to take part in the joy of the dance, and soon the auditorium was filled with the enthusiastic rhythm of clapping. The pulsating beat throughout the hall and the energetic display of movement on the stage created a rising sense of joyous excitement in which the audience was delightedly engaged. Kirtane seemed to effortlessly bridge cultures as all rejoiced together in the universal language of rhythmic expression. In her final piece, Kirtane accentuated this emphasis on unspoken rhythm. Her next dance, a traditional finale called Thillana, was performed to a single line of speech repeatedly sung to different rhythms. Dressed in a costume of vibrant yellow, red and gold, Kirtane performed an array of different footwork combinations to this peculiarly innovative cadence. In conclusion, she performed a Mangalam, a very brief piece in which she thanked God and the audience for making her performance possible. As she gave her final bow, the audience exploded. After a night of intensifying rounds of applause, people leapt from their seats to express their overwhelming respect and pleasure. Much like Kirtane’s performance, their appreciation required no verbal articulation. Physically and emotionally moved, the audience responded with a natural and unrestrained expression of joy. Medha Kirtane gave a performance not only to be watched and admired, but to be experienced and felt from within.