Malavika Sarukkai – Friday 9th April

Being a regular visitor to India, I was very much looking forward To Malavika Sarukkai’s Bharatanatyam Solo inspired by the river Gangees. On stage left were siting four musicians , Neela Sukhanya providing Nattuvangam – playing two cymbals of different metal alloys, Murali Parthasarathy on Vocals, M.S.Sukhi on percussion and Srilakshmi Venkataramani on Violin. The musicians played a haunting melody as the lights dimmed and we prepared for the dance. We heard Malavika before we saw her, heard the tinker and clash of the bells around her feet that would prove a constant reminder of the tinkering of the River Ganges on which the pieces were based.

Malavika spoke to us, in that beautiful way that only Indian English can achieve, about the themes and inspirations present in each dance piece before she danced them – talking about “Liquid Harmonies” and the interplay of young lovers as they met on the rivers banks. These English introductions gave a taste of what  imagine was some beautiful poetry sang over the music as she danced, which, alas, was not in English.

As the dances commenced I was struck by the control and efficiency with which Malavika moved, recreating turns and meanderings of the river Gangees from the roll of her shoulders and the flex of a wrist, which, combined with some beautiful lighting and the constant mouth watering music made for a truly beautiful performance.

My only reservation was that at times the pieces felt quite repetitive which I fully admit could be down to my lack of experience with the Bharatanatyam style and it’s subtle intricacies, and indeed not being able to understand the poetry being performed over the dance, a fact that made me want to run to India and take every language lesson going. By the end of the night the audience was mesmerised and after an hour and forty-five of non-stop gorgeous dancing, Malavika received a well deserved standing ovation.

Joseph Coelho

Yoga at Alchemy Festival

I’m aware that Yoga is not a type of dance, although my shaky attempt at it this morning may well be considered to be some type of ‘performance’. However neither does it fit into the Literature and Spoken Word, Gigs or Classical Music blogs, so I’m placing my little experience of Natasha Ahmad’s yoga class here. (Please forgive any mistakes in yoga terminology that I make within this, and feel free to correct me!)

So my flat-mate and I ventured to the Southbank bright and early in the glorious sunshine in an apprehensive, but extremely positive state of mind. Being two students who barely exercise, let alone meditate or practice yoga, we did wonder if this lesson would be the push needed for us to turn our lifestyles around and start treating our bodies well. When we arrived to the cool space of the Clore Ballroom, I was relieved to be assured by the gentleman next to me that it was his ‘first time’ too and once Natasha had come to speak to all the beginners individually I was completely relaxed as I knew I didn’t have to attempt anything I didn’t feel comfortable with. Although, it didn’t help that I had set up my yoga mat next to a very bendy yoga-queen.

Natasha teaches Shadow Yoga, a form of hatha yoga that helps you to control your breathing in order to control your body and mind. Her soothing voice talked us through some initial breathing exercises, which helped us to focus and be conscious of inhaling and exhaling, then some exercises that heightened awareness of body parts, before we moved on to some sequences that were beginner friendly but adaptable for the more experienced among us, like yoga-queen. Whilst I never expected yoga to be easy, at 21 years old I did expect to be able to bend over and touch the floor without bending my knees. I also expected to be able to stand on one leg without falling over. Neither was the case unfortunately but practice makes perfect, and when I was lying in ‘corpse pose’ at the end of the session and feeling with each exhalation my body melt into the floor, I made the decision to join my local yoga class. Both my flat-mate and I left Natasha with giddy goodbyes, feeling generally more relaxed and in tune with our bodies and ready to embrace the rest of the day. The description for this event said that by keeping our bodies and minds in tune through yoga, ‘we might improve our health in our organs, our emotions and our dealings with the external world’ and I can see how this could be the case- it’s not just the sunshine that’s made me feel so good today.

Natasha’s remaining classes are in the Clore Ballroom, at 10.15am on Saturday and Sunday.

Alchemy guest bloggers to cover our UK and Asian culture festival right here

There will be some exciting coverage and comment from our Alchemy guest bloggers coming over the next couple of weeks in response to the Alchemy festival April 7th – 11th 2010 which celebrates innovative, classical and contemporary artists from India, UK and South Asia.

Watch our interview with A R Rahman

Festival highlights include the London Philharmonic Orchestra performing many of the best-known works of the celebrated Slumdog Millionaire composer AR Rahman and BBC Asian Network DJ Nihal’s Desi Live a musical project bringing together three UK Bhangra heavyweights H-Dhami, Jaz Dhami and Juggy D on one stage with a full live band for the first time ever!

More info about Alchemy events/book tickets here

Watch exclusive rehearsal footage of Nihal’s Desi Live