Indique Dance Company

Review: Svabhava | Indique Dance Company | Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House

Transcending Style

Indique Dance Company's SvaBhava, in the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Elevator Project, marvelously takes a new spin on classical Indian technique.

published Saturday, December 8, 2018

Photo: Amitava Sarkar
Indique Dance Company


Dallas — Not only did Indique Dance Company’s SvaBhava stand out amongst the flood of holiday-themed productions of the season, but it also claimed its stake in presenting a new perspective on an ancient idea: “the intrinsic, essential nature of living beings”— SvaBhava. Eight performing arts groups were chosen for this season’s AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project—and after their opening night production, it’s easy to see why Indique Dance Company made the list. Elements of classical Bharatanatyam technique merged with bursts of modern, jazz, pantomime, and more—in a way that transcended concepts of genre or style. Through this unique blend of movement, the performance captured themes of humanity, relationship, and emotion that invited audience members to connect and relate. With an ambitious program of twelve pieces and three comedic interludes, the company maintained a consistently energetic program from start to finish.

Before each number, a spoken recording played in darkness—delivering a poetic description of the titles and themes explored in the upcoming work. These prologues aided in setting the desired mood and building a connection to the audience by inviting them to contemplate their own relationship to the ideas expressed.

I Am served as the perfect introduction to the evening. In a large clump, the company took slow, unified breaths before individually popping up to display specific character traits through dramatic facial expressions and gestures.

An electrically charged Parinati opened with four dancers stepping into linear formations with curious faces. Calm upper bodies contrasted the cutting arm gestures and striking steps of the dancers—creating a dissonance that finally resolved as the music changed speed and dynamic.

As a recorded metaphor about a blossoming flower played, viewers were invited to contemplate themes of community and identity before six dancers took the stage for Unity Alarippu. Beautifully elongated holds gave the piece a breathy quality—building anticipation. Saturated moments of stillness were interrupted by darting bent elbows, cutting bladed hands, and springy hops. Paralleling the theme of blossoming, these holds eventually gave way to unified mudras (symbolic hand gestures used in classical Indian techniques).

In No Man is an Island, a single dancer lunged and shifted alone until four women joined her onstage. As an electric guitar pierced through the concert hall, the dancers embodied a more contemporary quality—mixing brisk pas de chat with sultry jazz splits and stiff kicks. Taking on a heavier tone than the earlier works, the dancers retained stiff shoulders and harsh knee bends before shifting into desperate arches and hurried reaches towards one another.

The first duet of the evening, Seeing Another investigated human relationships, apathy, and kindness. With one dancer characterizing security and stability, and her counterpart symbolizing need and misfortune, the two circled around one another—avoiding connection. Yet through open palm gestures, delicate falls, and compassionate embraces, the two eventually found comfort in each other.

Choked transported audience members into a scene of forced silence and restraint. Returning to more traditional Bharatanatyam steps, four dancers stepped fiercely with angled wrists and waving arms. As the beat increased, their mudras appeared to morph into tutting—giving the piece a hip-hop feel and adding to the intensity.

Continuing the ferocity of the previous work, The Hunt began with dancers running onstage from every angle—backstage, through the audience, down the aisles. This immediately brought a sense of chaos to the scene. Add in animalistic crawls, tense claws, and slithering arms, and the title of the piece became a living expression. Part of the success of this number resided in the uninhibited determination of the dancers—showing no fear in pressing defiantly into audience space.

Departing from the previous climactic work, Rise invited a gentler atmosphere through supportive spatial arrangements and empowered movements. Circling around one downcast dancer, the remaining six covered her with open arms until she rose to join them. Smooth, fluid upper bodies mixed with accented steps shifted into Flamenco-like claps and swirls as the group found support within one another.

Following the trend of softer, more vulnerable qualities, Release featured the second duet of the night: a man and woman relationship. The couple partnered together cheerfully, circling each other in ways reminiscent of folk dances and courtship rituals. But, alas, the happiness couldn’t last—crossed arms, explosive facial expressions, and confrontational spacing led to a dramatic break. In a shift away from the less explicit themes of the previous works, Release captured a more theatrical rendition. Aided by an South Asian instrumental cover of the familiar “Hello” by Adele, the dramatic number became more melodramatic and exaggerated.

Similarly, Saree Shop also relied on theatrics rather than movement. With the recorded preface “Everything is funny as long as it’s happening to someone else,” the performance followed the story of quirky characters interacting at a saree shop. Their relationships unfolded in gestures and pantomime, yielding more drama and less dance. While comical and fun in nature, this piece didn’t match the intensity, emotion, and organic qualities found in the rest of the program.

Thankfully, this threaded intensity returned in Celebration. Swirling white/gold skirts emerged from all corners of the stage as the entire company reunited for expansive circles, upbeat foot work, and spirited turns. Explosive and dynamic, this piece called back to the magnetic atmosphere of the opening works.

Closing the show, Shanti displayed a fully connected body of dancers. Throughout the journey of the program, each mover appeared to discover their own identity and purpose—blooming into unified spiral motions, slow rotations, and stretched limbs. Thanks For Reading

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Transcending Style
Indique Dance Company's SvaBhava, in the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Elevator Project, marvelously takes a new spin on classical Indian technique.
by Emily Sese

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