Love was in the air, literally within the warm ambience of The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) during the gala fundraising night opening of Sutra Foundation’s second season of Amorous Delight on Wednesday (March 15).
How do you define love, that many splendoured thing? Can its fluid, permeating rasa be bottled and showcased for the scrutiny of an audience? At least Sutra’s team dared try this in their show depicting the intimate play of love, upon klpac’s stage.
There was no Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama nor Sakunthala-Dussyantha amorous narrative to stoke the bonfire of love in Amorous Delight although the Ambika and Siva Natarajah divine pair made brief exhibitions of their love-bond at several points in the show.
The nameless nayika (heroine), nayaka (hero) featured in the love poems of the 9th Century Amarushataka were called upon to act as smoldering coals to singe the sambrani (benzoin) of amorous delight hence spreading the fragrant mist of subtle erotism of love all around the spacious auditorium.
The atmosphere of love was enhanced by the intricate projected stage backdrop scenes as depicted in traditional Odisha palm leaf manuscript illustrations of the Amarushataka, drawn by the late Dr Dinanath Pathy of Odisha, India.
Sutra’s artistic director and choreographer Datuk Ramli Ibrahim and senior dancer and teacher Harenthiran rendered the Nayika roles coming on as the ebullient and heroic males of feudal times indulging in the sport of romance.
Senior dancers and teachers Geethika Sree, Divvya Nair, Tan Mei Mei and Vetheejay portrayed in turns each of the love smitten nayikas featured in the poems, delighting in Sambhoga (love in union) and tormented by Vipralambha (love in separation).
The Nayikas are in a state of perpetual struggle in their earnest bid to triumph in love, at once bold and domineering, sulking or bashful when facing an approaching lover and emotionally shattered overcome by weeping, lamenting and cursing while in separation.
Other dancers, Mathuri and Vaishnevi Raja Bhalu, Mridulla Kannan and Tishaa V. Ravi as friends and handmaidens together with child dancers from the Sutra Outreach Dance Program acted as necessary embellishments facilitating the lovers’ dealings.
Due to the comtemporary genre of the presentation, the dancers were somewhat limited in their scope unable to employ the full gamut of Odissi’s symbolic techniques and having to rely on gross realism to narrate the Amarushataka poems for the audience.
The night’s show started with Sutra honoring Dr Dinanath Pathy who was also an art-historian, curator and educationist, and Malaysian artist Yeoh Jin Leng in recognition of their vast contributions to the arts.
Amorous Delight continues its five day run at klpac until Sunday (March 19).
Review by R. Sittamparam
Picture by A. Prathap