Daksha Sheth Dance Company: Shiva Shakti, Perth International Arts Festival -
Regal Theatre, 25 February 2013 -
STRUT dance in association with Steps Youth Dance Company and the Centre Chorégraphique National de Grenoble; Trois Générations, Perth International Arts Festival -
Studio Underground, 28 February 2013 -
Two dance works in the recent Perth Festival, both with strong local connections, offered the promise of an interesting and contrasting Festival experience.
Shiva Shakti, was presented as an “Australian Exclusive” by the Daksha Sheth Dance Company from India. Founder and choreographer Daksha Sheth is a traditional Kathak-trained dancer who experimented with different dance styles before establishing her own company. In 1999 while in Perth, she choreographed a work for contemporary dancers at WAAPA as well as conducting classes.
Daksha Sheth’s husband Devissaro, responsible for lighting, stage design and direction for Shiva Shakti, was formerly a Perth musician and University of Western Australia classical music and composition student. Since meeting and marrying in India, they have worked together touring the world.
Shiva Shakti featured Sheth and Devissaro’s daughter Isha Sharvani, a well-known Bollywood actress, who revealed her abilities as an extremely gifted dancer and an accomplished aerialist trained in Mallakhamb rope technique. Sharvani shone in Shiva Shakti along with her brother Tao Issaro who devised the music with his father and played solo percussion brilliantly throughout the show.
After an impressive opening with four drummers wending their way onto the stage dancing and drumming, the six dancers and five musicians provided 70 minutes of complex rhythms, sounds and a fusion of traditional and contemporary Indian dance and yoga poses. Many attractively shaped and lit scenes of clouds, smokey haze, water, a lotus flower and impressive aerial gymnastics by Isha Sharvani and others created a rich and sensual ambience.
The notion of Shiva (male principle) and Shakti (dynamic feminine energy) is evident throughout in duets, especially a cleverly devised aerial swordfight and a couple entwining under and around a pink lotus flower “tree” culminating in their bodies forming the shape of a multi-limbed deity. A graceful and all too brief appearance by Daksha Sheth herself was a highlight in an entertaining work, which could benefit from a little tightening but had the very enthusiastic first night audience rhythmically clapping in unison at its conclusion.
Trois Générations was staged by local group STRUT dance in association with local contemporary group STEPS Youth Dance Company, and co-produced by the Perth Festival. It was performed in the 230-seat Studio Theatre.
Choreographed by Frenchman Jean-Claude Gallotta, Trois Générations sets out to explore the way three generations of dancers absorb and separately perform the same 25 minutes of contemporary choreography. It was first performed in France almost ten years ago and is referred to in the Festival program as a “gift to Perth” by the choreographer.
Performed on a bare, black, minimally-lit stage to rhythmic and suitably repetitive recorded music by Groupe Strigall, basic black practice clothes of different types were worn by all groups. The choreography requires control and musicality, and many of the abstract shapes and transitions would not have been easy to learn. Sequences and music are the same for each group of four females and four males of very different body types and heights. Different grainy, filmed sections from a 1951 Italian film Miracle in Milan precede each generation’s section with no clearly apparent context but intriguing to ponder.
Génération Un (8-13 year olds) are first up and were praiseworthy in their confidence, intensity and commitment. As is to be expected, they were occasionally challenged by the style and some of the steps. Génération Deux (young adult, well-trained, contemporary dancers) performed assuredly, changing the choreographic dynamic markedly with slight pauses and extended movements and much more athleticism but little depth. Génération Trois (the ‘mature’ group) were all admired, professional, former dancers. They approached the steps carefully and gently but infused the work with significance and emotional impact in their slightly sustained moments, an outstanding duet and solo, looks that lingered, subtle gestures and a warm camaraderie within the group. The touches of humour when the three ‘Générations’ are finally together on stage after about 80 minutes with no interval were most welcome.
High praise must go to the local rehearsal directors Alice Lee Holland (first generation), Danielle Micich (second generation) and Sue Peacock (third generation) who had the complicated task of teaching the work from video footage of the previous French cast. Because the work rarely used dancers in a group doing the same thing, it would have been a slow process to identify each person’s part and then to teach it individually, especially to the very inexperienced Génération Un.
That each group handled the work physically and dynamically just as one would expect for their age, level of training and level of performing and life experience was not revelatory. But the concept was interesting and perhaps the process as valuable as the actual performance. The first night audience with lots of parents (and probably Génération Trois’ offspring) in attendance responded with warm and vocal appreciation.
Promoters naturally enough talk up their “product”, which can lead to unrealistic expectations. For me, neither Shiva Shakti nor Trois Générations quite lived up to the talk, but their West Australian links won me over.
- Margaret Mercer