Form Dance and Parramatta Riverside’s ‘Dance Bites’ season brought an exciting, colourful and exotic mixed bill of dance styles.

Part of Form Dance and Parramatta Riverside’s ‘Dance Bites’ season this is the most exciting, colourful and rather exotic mixed bill that brings together traditional Indian dance and contemporary dance styles. It is a collaboration between Shruti  Ghosh and Aruna Gandhimathinathan using the Indian classical dance forms of Kathak and Bharatanatyam.

Abstract patterns and the compelling rhythms of the dance are used in a very exciting, mesmerizing display. Both Ghosh and Gandhimathinathan are magnificent performers and we see how the movement of even just a finger is important (the ‘mudras’ or hand positions). Mehndi (the hand decorations) is prominent in the featured solos.

The first half, under the umbrella title ‘Nritya Roopa’ opens with a short invocation piece to the gods. The dancers are in traditional classical Indian red and gold costumes with the formal makeup etc and form a striking sculptural tableau.   

In Shruti’s ‘Kathak Nritta’ solo there was dramatic use of her shadow behind her. What I noticed was the particular ‘epaulement’ for this style of dance, with a regal, rigid back but snaky, fluid expressive arms, delicate yet fiery and a use of their diagonal lines in various poses. There was an almost Flamenco-like rhythm of the feet and lots of turns showing off the glittering, swirling costume.

In Aruna’s ‘Jatiswaram In Bharatanatyam’ sinuous solo there is a use of the deep Graham plie and spiky fingers. There is extremely expressive, tightly choreographed use of the neck and eyes and while the choreography possibly seems ‘softer’ than the Kathak style it also perhaps seemed more vertical and ‘boxed in’. There is a duet to take us to the interval (‘Yahi Madhava’), opening with Aruna mermaid-like. Shruti then appears in a blue and gold sari, hair down. Here again there is very expressive mime and dazzling  footwork to difficult intricate rhythms contrasted with sculptural poses .It is supposed to be a conversation between Radha and Krishna and combines both styles wonderfully.

After interval there was a great shift to a meld of strong ‘contemporary’ yet indigenous (Bangarra -like) work with ‘Dark Dream’, an eerie, dramatic duet for two men – Thomas E S Kelly and Carl Tolentino. Were they dreaming? Was any of it real? You could also see hints of the classical Indian style.  It was performed with a soft, fluid angularity which was simultaneously definitely masculine.

One of the strangest ‘contemporary’ solos I have seen for a while was ‘A Dip for Narcissus’ that followed, choreographed and performed by Tammi Gissell. There was wonderful use of soft grainy photos and poetry text in the dreamlike, floating film projected on the back screen. Gissell’s body and costume had dye smeared on it .Confronting, a bit confusing and challenging, Gissell wore huge reflective goggles at one point and did a headstand in one of the three plastic buckets that were part of the set.

The finale of the programme was a wonderful dialogue between Aruna and Shruti’s two similar but different dance styles. Fresh and vibrant it was enchanting. Special mention must be made of the percussive music for this played by Prabhu Osoniqs on Hang that combined elements of the tabla, harmonium, sarangi, miridangam, violin flute and vocals. 

It’s a fascinating mixed programme showcasing some tremendous performances.

Rating: 4 stars

Dates: 23-25 May 2013

Running Time: 90 mins (approx) including one interval

Form Dance Projects and Riverside present


Walking the path of Lineage

Shruti  Ghosh and Aruna Gandhimathinathan

Music – Prabhu Osoniqs 

Dark Dream

Thomas S E Kelly and Carl Tolentino

Music – Venetian Snares, Bloc Party


A Dip For Narcissus

Tammi Gissell

Choreographed and Performed by Tammi Gissell

Music – Meredith Monk, Edgard Varese, Goldmund

Sound design Tammi Gissell and Thomas E .S Kelly

Poetry and projection Tammi Gissell  

Lynne Lancaster

Wednesday 29 May, 2013

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.