(BECKET, Mass., July 2, 2013) – Jacob’s Pillow showcases the best of international contemporary ballet with New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and classical South Indian dance in the person of Shantala Shivalingappa this week, in the Ted Shawn and Doris Duke theaters, respectively, Wednesday, July 3, 2013 through Sunday, July 7, 2013. Shivalingappa’s performance will feature live music.
Shantala Shivalingappa was born in India and raised in Paris. Her vivid interpretations of the classical South Indian dance style, Kuchipudi, are steeped in expressive narrative with flowing lines, nimble leaps, and percussive footwork. Joined by four master musicians, Shivalingappa presents the U.S. premiere of Akasha, a program showcasing her artistry with five solos, all inspired by ancient Hindu poems.
The fiercely talented dancers of Cedar Lake will present Tuplet by Nederlands Dans Theater’s Alexander Ekman; Grace Engine by 2011 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner and Kidd Pivot artistic director Crystal Pite; and Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren‘s wild Necessity.
The New York Times calls Cedar Lake “the country’s most innovative contemporary ballet troupe with an A-list repertoire, and an accent on creation that few companies worldwide can match.”
Through its gifted troupe of 16 dancers and a remarkable, wide-ranging repertory, the company – founded in 2003 by Nancy Laurie – has distinguished itself as one of the chief forces in today’s contemporary dance scene. Cedar Lake works to support dance innovation and appreciation by commissioning the work of emerging choreographers that will also have popular appeal. The company is currently under the direction of ballet master Alexandra Damiani, acting as Interim Artistic Director.
Cedar Lake’s current repertoire includes works by Regina van Berkel, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Andonis Foniadakis, Ji?í Kylián, and Hofesh Shechter. Future projects for the company include works by choreographers Julie Bour, Israeli choreographer Emanuel Gat, and Swedish dancer and choreographer Johan Inger.
Showcasing classical technique and modern athleticism, the dancers of Cedar Lake come from a variety of backgrounds including The Juilliard School, North Carolina School of the Arts, Royal Danish Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, River North Chicago Dance Company, Batsheva Ensemble, Boston Conservatory, Ballet BC, and American Dance Center. They hail from Korea, Romania, Brazil, Portugal, France, and the U.S. and have worked in film, television, and commercial dance as well as on the concert stage.
Akasha, featuring choreography by Shantala Shivalingappa and Vempati Ravi Shankar, son of Shivalingappa’s Kuchipudi guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, is a program of five Kuchipudi solos, each performed by Shivalingappa and accompanied by live singing, flute, and percussions. In Sanskrit, the classical language of India and Hinduism, Akasha means Sky or Space and is regarded as Luminous and the Source of All.
Each work in Akasha is inspired by a traditional Hindu poem, with one particular poem dating back to as early as the 13th century, describing various Gods. Om Namo Ji Adya, danced and sung by Shivalingappa, begins the program as a salute to Ganesh, the elephant-headed God who isknown as the light that enlightens themind. Krishnam Kalaya is inspired by Krishna, the Supreme God, Light of the Universe, and conqueror of demons. Next in Jaya Jaya Durge, she praises Durga, a form of the Goddess mother who embodies power and the destruction of Evil. Challenging herself in Kirtanam, Shivalingappa depicts herself as two characters, telling the story of a love quarrel between Alamelu Manga, the narrator, and her husband, the God Venkateshwara. Rounding out the program is a final solo entitled Bhairava, representing an aspect of the God Shiva (also the lord of the Dance) in its terrible and destructive form as the Divine Protector.
After being raised in Paris, Shivalingappa returned to India at 16 to receive training in the Kuchipudi form of dance that she now brings to the Pillow. “Dance for me is joy and beauty,” Shivalingappa said in an interview for European magazine Culture Kiosque “I want to change the stereotyped image that some people have of Indian dance. I don’t only dance for myself, but for my musicians and my audience… it doesn’t matter if people don’t understand the story or the significance of certain gestures.” She has performed Kuchipudi in Portugal, France, Morocco, Italy, Belgium, and New York City. Though she is trained classically in Kuchipudi, Shivalingappa’s work is influenced by contemporary choreographer Pina Bausch, in whose company she has performed, appearing in many works including O Dido and Bamboo Blues.
Kuchipudi is a classical dance form of South India characterized by its rhythmic, vibrant style, full of quick, intricate footwork, and jumps. Originally a sacred men’s dance, Kuchipudi is a combination of abstract and narrative movements based on Hindu mythology. The focus is on the use of gestures, facial expressions, and body language; the hand gestures, or mudras, are codified into a very precise language. Vempati Chinna Satyam, Shantala Shivalingappa’s guru, is regarded as Kuchipudi’s most influential practitioner, and is credited with spreading knowledge of Kuchipudi worldwide.