I’d like to say I saw two shows tonight, but one was really a meet-and-greet with the candidates running for mayor of New Haven. It just seemed like a show.
Still, it made more sense to me than the Shantala Shivalingappa’s beautiful and graceful and serene new Indian dance solo show Akasha. A series of dances with very little spoken text, there are nonetheless a lot of gestures and acting-style presentations in it. You have to really study the program notes to get a handle on what Shantala Shivalingappa is doing, yet taking such a literal approach can defeat the beauty and wonder of it. The dancer does some extraordinary things, and a four-member Indian band accompanies her with vigor. Yet the show gets repetitive and overlong, and near the end seems downright amateurish when two of the musicians did an endless drum duel which was clearly meant to simply cover while Shivalingappa made a costume change. When the visual cue came that the dancer was ready for the next scene, the musicians shut down the jam with amusing abruptness.
Indian dance such as this, which blends traditional styles with modern stage formats, can be mesmerizing and haunting, especially when done by such an appealing and accessible performer. I did feel like I was missing something, something that could have been incorporated into the performance. But I really don’t mind.