It was a spiritual experience, an elevation of the spirit and heart, a dimension showcasing the sensual, the mystical, the magical and the tangling of both mythology and reality.
It was the kind of soul-bending encounter that you can’t find in a church, a temple, or any place filled with incense and the chanting of monks. It could only be felt through a performance that demanded the complete surrender of your mind, body and soul, accompanied by an arsenal of magnificent musicians pouring their art into your pores.
The act mirrors the eighth century poem by Andal, a Tamil mystic poet, and her desire for the Hindu deity Krishna, who is the ideal lover and Supreme Being. Andal’s ultimate craving for Krishna is depicted through lead dancer Aparna Ramaswamy’s longing stares and seductive dancing. She is accompanied by four other dancers, one of them Aparna’s sister.
The Indian psyche was potent and humming throughout each scene. The five dancers transformed into muses, goddesses of story and time, spirits wrapped in suspense and desire.
“I loved the emotion conveyed especially in the synchronicity of the dancers and the musicians,” said hip-hop artist Paige Hernandez, a 2002 alumna. “It’s a beautiful story.”
There was no narration, no explanation for many of the actions within the act. A bell was rung twice, in the middle and end of the act and, at one point, the auditorium lighting was extinguished with only two dancers emerging to give their offerings to Krishna.
The fusion of the past and present, Indian and American, was extremely fluid. Watching Ramaswamy glide through ecstasy and bliss while the jazz music spoke for her felt like second nature.
During the show, I wasn’t a college student, a tea addict, or a hat aficionado. I was merely an observer of Andal’s affection of Krishna and the journey that unfolded once she sought him.
There was a calling of something. You couldn’t pinpoint it, but you felt yourself plunging into the unknown and being guided toward something great and anonymous. You had no offering, nothing to give to whatever you were being led.
But your offerings were your heart, body, mind, soul, eyes and ears.
Whatever that something was, that was all that it asked and all that it desired.
You were awake but asleep, alive but dwelling in a cave filled to the brim with sounds you never knew the world had recorded.
Toward the end, the dancers drifted away and all the attention was centered on the musicians. Music was the top component—without it, the performance wouldn’t be nearly as profound or as euphoric.
“The music was my favorite part. I could not take my eyes off the drummer [Rajna Swaminathan] – that was so mesmerizing and so beautiful,” said Becca Gwira, a sophomore psychology major. “I didn’t mind much that there wasn’t narration.”
A mammoth labyrinth of emotions exploded as soon as Mahanthappa took the lead with the sax, engulfing everyone in his solo, his painting. The Carnatic flute played, by Raman Kalyan, followed after, blissful and grinning. The rest of the instruments painted their strokes of wonder onto the foreheads of the audience, inciting enthusiastic applause after each solo.
When the final bell was rung, it was the closing of a chapter. It wasn’t abrupt, but a veil was removed, leaving you blinking back into reality, no longer in the world fabricated of legend, myth and poetry.
The jasmine flower embodies the transcending of opposites, the emergence of the old and the new, of sensuality and passion. Rich in music, prose, spirituality and dance.
The Ragamala Dance Company has created a masterpiece, one that can never be duplicated. Even if you see every showing of Song of the Jasmine, it will be a newfound and mesmerizing experience each time.
The bell has been rung; a shining period filled with eighth century poetry, jazz and vivid, entrancing dance has begun.
Karla Casique is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.