Theater archives

From Exotic Climes, Half a Dozen Dancing Princesses. Collect ‘Em All!


Eerie, beautiful, and irresistibly entertaining, the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble practices Odissi, a lyrical, sensuous, and often ecstatic branch of Indian dance, depicted in the sculpture of ancient indigenous temples. The troupe’s six women offer a gorgeous display—in their personal beauty, rich costuming, and superbly articulated movement. Dare I say that the show sometimes seems unreal in its surface perfection, as if the irregularities and ambiguities that make art and life profound had yielded to Disneyfication? To my mind, the company also goes astray when it attempts to fuse latter-day Western dance genres to its traditional form, which is rooted and self-contained, confining its dazzling animation to the eyes, the torsion of torso and pelvis, the eloquent fingers. Surupa Sen, who fashions the group’s choreography, hasn’t yet found ways to make outstretched limbs, jumps, falls to the floor, and surveys of space look anything but foreign. I lapped it all up anyway.

Eloquent camera work outstrips a gift for body language

Andrea E. Woods may be essentially a solo performer—as Souloworks, the punning title of her enterprise, indicates—but she has a steady partner in the rhythmically cut, boldly angled video footage she creates as accompaniment. While a pair of charismatic dancers, the divinely casual Christopher Campbell and the feisty Felicia Swoope, join her in the live first half of Partial View, the second part of the piece, a kind of video deconstruction of what we’ve already seen, packs the real emotional punch. When she chooses to do without a video element, Woods can’t quite possess the stage solely through her choreography and dancing, which, though pleasant enough, are not yet highly evolved. In Bird of Pray, a quietly confident Hattie Gossett, reading her own text encouraging spiritual affirmation via an identification with nature (Souloworks, remember), nearly upstages Woods, whose movements register simply as an echo or illustration.