Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review: Shantala Shivalingappa's 'Namasya'

Merilyn Jackson says Shantala Shivalingappa brings spare elegance and beauty to the four solos she performs in tribute to her teachers and mentors, particularly Pina Bausch.

Review: Shantala Shivalingappa's 'Namasya'

By Merilyn Jackson

The moment Shantala Shivalingappa appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s in Tanztheater Wuppertal’s Bamboo Blues in 2008, the audience inhaled collectively as if a floral scent had suddenly wafted onto the stage. It had.

It wasn’t the first time Shivalingappa danced with Pina Bausch’s company, but it was the first whiff of her we had in the States. She appeared shorter, more adorably childlike than the older, wiser, perhaps jaded, Wupertallers. 

At the Arts Bank Sunday night she danced four solos in a brief evening she devised, looking anything but childlike. She called the evening Namasya, an homage to her teachers and mentors, not the least of whom was the late and still-mourned Bausch.

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Bausch choreographed Shivalingappa’s second piece called “Solo” for her. Shivalingappa’s elegant legs, hidden under a shimmering bronzed ball-gown, made wide-legged squats spreading the skirt in two opposite directions as she turned her thoroughbred profile to the audience, her polished arms hovering in a straight line over her thighs.

Butoh-master and Sankai Juku founder Ushio Amagatsu, choreographed the first solo, “Ibuki.” In white pants and belly-baring vest, Shivalingappa splays her curling fingers, resting her up-angled arms elbow over elbow. She begins and ends the dance lying on her side propped up on one elbow as if floating lazily downstream on a raft. 

In the middle of her own dance, “Shift,” she stalks the stage as if to find another starting point. In “Smarana” by Savitry Nair (her mother), she sits with her back to the audience, those shoulders carved like stone by Nicolas Boudier’s lighting. Once up and dancing she crouches, turning in a tight circle to the thrumming of a sitar. All four dances had elements of the South-Indian Kuchipundi form for which she is famous, but looked spare and modern.

$25-$30. 8 p.m. 9/12, Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St.

Also in Play with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, $25-30. 8 p.m. 9/15-17, Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street

About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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