Yavanika: Engaging and Inspirational

Apr 03, 2014

By Arathi Srikantaiah

It has been little over a week since I saw Yavanika: Veiled Perspectives at Kirkland Performance Center (KPC) and I’m still standing in ovation. There were so many highlights to the show that I can only attempt to describe them all here.  

Yavanika is a meditation about human perspectives narrated through the story of two women and the medium of classical Indian dance. Although the story is told through a vocabulary of classical Indian dance, it does not dwell in the past tense. Making a departure from the dramatized storytelling of traditional epics, it is contemporary dance work that highlights themes and ideas that are far more relevant to our times.  

Curtain_Call_Sridhar.jpgThe story (based on real life experiences) explores how we view the world through ‘custom veils’ hued by culture, upbringing, experiences, dispositions and the people we encounter in our lives. In doing so, we sometimes feed into stereotypes and instantly group people up into categories such as confident and meek. Rumi, a 13th century Sufi mystic said,

Anyone who knows me should learn to know me again; for I am like the moon, you will see a new face of me every day.” Yavanika inspires us to do just that; reflect on our ability to see through the mirages that life throws at us.  

Just as the story breaks barriers, so do the choreography, music, costumes, makeup, sets and just about every thing else in the show. Using Bharatanatyam as the backbone, the choreography also draws upon other art forms such as the tribal dance form Chauu from Orissa, the enchanting Mohiniyattam and martial art form Kalaripayattu from Kerala. A stickler for precision, Joyce’s choreography strictly adheres to the traditional tenets of the various dance forms and yet obedience to technique only adds to the deliciousness of the show, rather than diminish it. Whether it is the precise adavus of Bharatanatyam, the gentle swaying evocative of flowing rivers and palm trees of Mohiniyattam or the mock combat movements from Chauu and Kalaripayattu, integration of the diverse dance forms looked seamless and harmonious.

Far more than mere accompaniment, the music of Yavanika composed by Murali Pavithran and Meera Krishna, also draws influences from multiple genres. Carnatic music forms the spine of the show’s music, delicate and dreamlike world music complements the ebb and flow of certain parts of the dance sequences, and physical driving beats add a touch of drama to the mock combat movements. The Tango Neuvo music is especially delightful in the Tango dancer-lover pair sequence.

The blue and black makeup and costumes of the Elements of Life (EOL) do an exceptional job of showcasing their persona and their point of view. A special mention is due to Vidya Sekhar for her extraordinary makeup skills. The artwork on the props by Rashmi Thirtha Jyoti fortifies the theme of Yavanika. And on Joyce and Meera, the veil itself becomes a tool to show how to see without the veil.

Joyce and Meera dance poured their hearts and souls into their dancing. Well known for their abhinaya (the art of expression), they did an exceptional job at as lead dancers, conveying complex emotions without a hint of melodrama. The eight bright stars of the EOL team (all established Seattle area dancers), Nivedita, Gayatri, Meera, Prajakta, Prashanthi and Tanvee, combined their wattage for an incredible performance. Their magnetic presence and sumptuous technique, a week later, still have me spellbound. It seemed as if they had they had existed and danced as a unified whole since the beginning of time. After the show, Neetha Tuluri, founder of the popular Sammamish based dance school BollySteps said about the EOL, “It is as if they were a single entity, linked not just physically but also in other invisible ways. This is an extremely hard to achieve choreography feat. Kudos to Joyce Paul for creating the unified dynamic!”

By drawing on our rich multicultural diversity, Yavanika, stretches our minds because it sets the stage for a new paradigm in classical Indian dance. By making our foibles, hopes and aspirations visible to us, it touches and moves us, in a way that only good art can.

The ninety-minute intermission-less show flew by in nine minutes for me. I wanted the show to go on. And in a sense it did. Moving way beyond the realm of entertainment, into that of soul and inspiration, I was deep in conversation with myself long after I had left the gorgeous setting of KPC.

Arathi Srikantaiah



Tags: yavanika
Category: YAVANIKA

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Posted by Sudha Chandrasekhar on
So exciting to read all about 'Yavanika'.
The awesome review covers every detail
About the show, highlighting the choreography,
the costuming, the music, and of course the
outstanding makeup. It helps those who were not
there to experience the power and energy of
that evening. Congratulations to Joyce, the dancers,
the make up artist Vidya, the musicians,
the technicians, the Stage crew, and the back stage
heloers, and everyone who worked hard to
Make Joyce's dream come true. Joyce should
Now contemplate on taking this dre oh hers
to other cities using local artists to work with her.
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