Choreographed by Malini Srinivasan
Part of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Dance
Runs through 8.24.14
Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette Street
by Zahra Sadjadi on 8.21.14
Malini Srinivasan in Tejas Luminous.
BOTTOM LINE: A lovely rendezvous with a traditional Indian dance form that incorporates every aspect of the human body in the storytelling.
Tejas Luminous is a production strongly rooted in the tradition of Bharatanatyam (or Bharata Natyam), a form of classical dance originating from south India, and as such, it seems perhaps an outlier production in a festival largely known for promulgating shows that are unconventional and non-traditional. Yet when you look closely, Tejas Luminous, conceived and choreographed by Malini Srinivasan, is an oddball too, particularly for those of us unfamiliar with the conventions of Bharatanatyam. And Srinivasan gently subtends those structures while incorporating hints of something modern.
For the Bharatanatyam newcomer, Tejas Luminous is an alluring introduction to a style which Srinivasan describes as “notable for its complex rhythmic footwork that includes strikes, extensions, jumps, and leaps, plus the intricate patterns made by hands and arms, all stemming from an extended, dynamic torso.” Indeed, the style can seem quite bizarre at first: the dancers resemble ancient sculptures come to life with quiet, controlled stances juxtaposed by the rhythmic jutting of their heads timed perfectly to the deliberate, dramatic movement of their eyes, not to be outdone by the deft contortion of each joint of their fingers into elaborate configurations (among other things). There is so much going on that I found myself becoming tense anticipating how much control and concentration is required to execute just the physical language.
Nevertheless, it was the expression of their faces, particularly Srinivasan, which kept me entranced and invested in the various stories told by each of the dancers. This particular nuance proved powerful, unexpected, and a testament to the transformational artistry of the performers; consequently, I found myself enamored of Tejas Luminous less for the narrative (which tracks the spiritual and temporal elements of the day as it passes from dawn to dusk and back to dawn again) than for those singular moments of watching Srinivasan’s face, whether she was still, moving, or frozen in a tableau.
(Tejas Luminous plays at the Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor through August 24, 2014. Remaining performances are 8/22 at 4:45PM; 8/23 at 8:15PM; and 8/24 at 4:15PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information, visit www.malinisrinivasan.com.)