Thursday, September 29

Auguste Rodin’s works in Bharatanatyam

An artiste never knows when, where or what his source of inspiration could be. Often, that inspiration can lead to a new creative idea.

Shanmugasundaram, fascinated by French artist Auguste Rodin, conceptualized a thematic dance performance based on the sculptor and his works through his medium of expression, Bharatanatyam. Titled ‘Amour’, this production that premiered in 2006 was presented once again at Alliance Francaise recently.

A brief Mallari set the tone for the Bharatiyar song, ‘Paayum oli nee enakku’, drawing references from Rodin’s sculptures, ‘Inferno’ and ‘The Thinker’. The power of thought expressed in the poem and sculptures were explored in this composition.

The tumultuous relationship between Rodin and his student and associate Camille Claudel offered scope to depict a range of emotions such as love, passion, despair, and self destruction. Shanmugasundaram, choosing to be in his comfort zone, selected the Pantuvarali song ‘Netru varen endru’ to portray the two sculptors and their passion. While the song described the usual nayak-nayika love story through conventional imageries, Shanmugasundaram concluded the piece with Rodin’s iconic sculpture, ‘The Kiss.’

Blend of art forms

Interestingly, Rodin is said to have been so captivated by the image of Nataraja that he wrote The Dance of Shiva in which he explained how dance, poetry, and sculpture are interrelated. This found expression in Shanmugasundaram’s ‘Kunitha puruvamum’, where he describes the form of the lord of dance.

It’s not often that you come across presentations based on interdisciplinary inspiration, but such concepts call for deeper study of the art forms involved and liberated expression. Shanmugasundaram could have pushed the boundaries of his art a little more to establish the link between dance and sculpting.

For instance, when a celebrated work like ‘The Kiss’, known for its grace and abstraction, is chosen for depiction, the artiste should have explored the movement vocabulary. Regular sancharis cannot convey the emotions depicted in the sculptures. The choice of compositions from the traditional dance repertoire too seemed out of place, and the singer’s high decibel rendition disturbed the flow of sequences. Attention to detail would have made the performance a well-chiselled one.

The Chennai-based reviewer writes on classical dance.

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