Milapfest’s Dance Development Manager Archana Shastri shares her thoughts on Spanda – why it’s important, why it’s different and why it’s an event not to be missed!
Leela Samson is highly regarded all over the world for her incredible contribution to the world of dance. She has done and continues to do tremendous work as a solo performing artist, teacher and author, not to mention her role as Chairperson of both the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Central Board for Film Certification (India). This weekend will mark the first opportunity we’ve had in the UK to witness her work as a choreographer with her own dance company, Spanda.
Just from watching the teaser video online I can tell that the Spanda experience will be unlike anything I’ve seen before. With Bharatanatyam, I usually expect to be seeing pieces taken from a Margam (traditional repertoire) representing a selection of stories from Hindu mythology which will take me on a journey of emotions – love, friendship, fear, bravery etc. While all of that is wonderful and forms an extremely important part of the Bharatanatyam tradition, I’m always left yearning for a new experience of some sort. How else can Bharatanatyam be presented? What other themes and aspects of Bharatanatyam could be explored which may connect more with audiences, particularly outside of India or those new to Bharatanatyam? What else can be done in terms of choreography and music? These questions have generated loads of intriguing lunch-time discussions and debates amongst the Milapfest team!
Leela Samson has taken an interesting approach to this line of thought. Rather than trying to re-invent Bharatanatyam, she has re-discovered it. She has gone right back to the basics of Bharatanatyam and through her innovative choreography has managed to magnify the delicate details found in mudras, postures and adavus, all of which make Bharatanatyam the beautiful form that it is.
Spanda’s music is composed by the brilliant O.S Arun, and offers an innovative new sound, perfectly complementing Leela’s dynamic and crisp choreography. It’s also interesting and unusual to have music composed for Bharatanatyam which doesn’t have an obvious Carnatic sound.
Spanda features a stunning team of six dancers, including Leela Samson herself, with movements which are fresh, striking, graceful and done with a clear sense of purpose.