Lewisville — With most dance companies taking the summer months to prepare for a new fall season, Tejas Dance seems to have missed that memo. Barely two months after their evening length presentation of the WOMAN next door, Bharatanatyam partners Bhuvana Venkatraman and Chintan Patel bounced back into action last weekend, joined by special guest Bijayini Satpathy. While past performances explored how the traditional art of Bharatanatyam relates to contemporary styles and themes, their production of Shivalaya pulled audience members into an intimate tour of the Lord Shiva’s temple. First premiered in 2017 for the ICHF and the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, Tejas Dance brought back this dramatic collection of narratives, mudras, and spiritual themes to share with a wider audience. This return to traditional Indian experiences paired perfectly with guest artist Bijayini Satpathy’s performance of Kalpana: an exploration of another form of classical Indian dance known as Odissi.
Structured as both a physical and metaphorical journey into Shiva’s temple, Shivalaya included a map within the program that outlined the pilgrimage—beginning with Pratha, venturing deeper through five realms, to finish with Ardhanareeshwara, the inmost chamber. This streamline approach succeeded in making these complex spiritual themes accessible to all viewers.
Immediately, a reverent mood emerged from the duet’s heavy breaths and gooey stretched positions. In a visually stunning spatial arrangement, Patel solemnly melted through a series of deep stretches on an elevated platform upstage as Venkatraman contrasted these holds with slicing bladed hands and pricking, accented fingers. Through entrancing contrasts and urgent dynamic shifts, Pratha produced intriguing visuals without divulging too much—fostering a mysterious tone that would continue throughout the performance.
Transitioning into the next section of the temple, Panchabhoota Alarippu set aside the enigmatic atmosphere of the first piece as the duet exploded with nimble knee drops, crisp upper body isolations, and satisfying unison movements. While their partnership has always displayed an undeniable connection, this particular piece highlighted a maturing relationship between the dancers.
Another example of this growth appeared in Saptaswara, which revealed a higher level of technical expertise. The dancers teased viewers with lengthy stillness in stressful bends before erupting into elongated strides that pulled the duet into every corner of the stage. A back and forth momentum led the dancers through lively spatial patterns and precarious holds. Reminiscent of a western attitude balance, Patel hovered in the space before snaking his body free and slithering into a series of stomps and shuffles.
After balancing these action-packed works with more narrative-focus pieces like Nandi, Thevaram, and Amba, the couple welcomed viewers into the final room of the temple—Ardhanareeshwara. Embodying Shiva’s half-male-half-female character, the duet explored masculine and feminine energies by blending them together through seamless transitions and indistinguishable gestures. This climactic finale featured a vibrant collection of awe-inspiring moments—from Patel’s agile knee spins around a hovering Venkatraman, to their buoyant coverage of the stage.
Post-intermission, guest artist Bijayini Satpathy premiered Kalpana for its U.S. debut. Similar to Bharatanatyam in the sense that it shares classical steps and narrative emphasis, Satpathy’s presentation of the Odissi technique offered a different approach to the art form of Indian storytelling.
Leaving behind the sharp articulation and symmetrical visuals found in Bharatanatyam, Satpathy eased into Mangalacharan with gooey circling hips, continuous spinal spirals, and expansive melts. Beautiful, breathtaking, and simply spellbinding, Satpathy commanded attention through her titillating eye contact and gentle fluidity. Her blooming fingertips and cross-lateral reaches portrayed a beguiling character who slowly began to reveal herself to viewers with every oozing step and subtle undulation.
Prior to Srimati, Satpathy explained how Odissi dance takes inspiration from sculptures and images within Hindu temples—imagery that manifested itself through her remarkable performance. Striking pauses in between her swirling turns and scooping arm gestures recalled this idea of sculptures coming to life. Taking on a bit of a sharper dynamic than her sinuous introduction, accented winks, mudras, and hip articulations unveiled a youthful, curious atmosphere.
In addition to her captivating physicality, Satpathy also displayed moments of pure storytelling through gesture and theatrical embodiment. Sun Maiya and Sakhi He featured her talent for dramatizing traditional narratives in her enticing facial expressions and deliberate steps.
Ending with Sita Haran, Satpathy elevated her fluid dynamic to include brisk prances, sinking lunges, and emotionally charged eye-flickers, reminiscent of dance-theater styles like the Japanese noh or kabuki. Continuing to impress with her immense stage presence and curving momentum, Satpathy concluded her performance with an ambitious promenade balance that sent audience members into a standing ovation.