September 29, 2017
Sari by Daksha Sheth Dance Company is a percussive celebration of the Indian sari, from its manufacturing to final form, worn differently by each individual. It’s a varied evening of different moods and movement textures, a consequence of the choreography encompassing different strands of traditional and contemporary Indian dance.
The work is predominantly performed by seven younger dancers of the company, though nearer the end it features an appearance, rich in experience and deft articulation, from Daksha Sheth herself. Sari is structured in a collage fashion, each section thematic and characterised by the specialism of the main dancer(s) of that section.
Sari, wraps around two strands that direct the viewer’s attention: the use of hanging ropes to varying effects, and bodily percussive moments. It opens with Isha Sharvani cradled in a hanging cloth, an embryonic form that soon emerges and scales up the material. Her acrobatic finesse is complimented by two male dancers who clamber up ropes either side of her. There is a strength here that is not showy or flashy, but rather assured and quietly confident. As the piece progresses, more dancers get to swing on the ropes, sometimes lulling the audience into a likewise hypnotic state.
The percussion takes the form of rigorous body slaps, and stamps on the floor, with both feet and poles. The sudden claps and the rhythmical exactitude is pleasantly jolting, a wake up to the audience. One musical solo from performer Tao Issaro in particular almost induces wincing, as he plays a bodily tune so fervent and exact that an impressive red burn slowly appears on his chest.
The show is let down slightly by the text that scrolls up the back wall, announcing the title of and background to each section. Not only does it disrupt the flow of sequences, that could exist without explanation, it can be hard to read through the hanging ropes that dangle at the front of the stage. The filmed footage that accompanies some of the movement is likewise sometimes lost in the bustle of the dance and the draped materials that frame the stage.
Sari concludes with an enjoyable group ensemble. As an outsider to Indian dance, I am struck by the precision of the hand gestures, and the ability to move from slow, deliberate postures, to exquisitely fast movements. The performance ends informally, with thanks and introductions led by Daksha, concluding this evening of warmth and celebration.