The Jayanthi Raman Company performed for a small but appreciative audience Saturday night, October 3. The performance featured choreography, design, costumes and lighting design by Raman, to varying effect.
The strongest piece, Swagatham Krishna, choreographed and danced by Raman, explored classical and folk elements as it told the story of Lord Krishna, in the three ages of his life. The piece was gentle and lilting, evocatively communicative, and Raman’s exposition before the piece provided a helpful narrative guide, allowing greater accessibility into what is for many in the audience, likely an unfamiliar tale.
Overall, the program could have benefited from a simple handheld program, with a bit of background information, the names of the dances and the dancers themselves. Without such written word, audience members were left scratching their heads a bit. (When I inquired about a program, I was told I could by Raman’s textbook on classical Indian dance, for upwards of $30…)
Dancers Shradha Vinod, Soujanya Madhusudan, Sweta Ravishankar, Mugdha Vichare and Ramya Raman were all excellent, each demonstrating a strong technique and performance quality.
Tillana, choreographed by Guru Adyar Lakshman performed by Jayanthi Raman Company dancers led by Raman, spoke to the dancers’ abilities. Colorful costumes enlivened the experience.
Lighting added emotional resonance, but was in constant struggle with the projections of slides behind the dancers, which alternated between the same celestial image, translations of Vedic texts, and symbolic images from nature, such as a peacock. If Raman is going to incorporate visual elements such as these, as backdrops for her work, they need to be more finely tuned to the pieces themselves, or they threaten to take away from, rather than enhancing the experience.
Raman is the recipient of numerous grants, including an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant, and has received support from the Oregon Cultural Trust and the National Dance Project.
Though Raman successfully articulates, in her marketing and in development, the need for more light to shine on this underrepresented art form, the company’s somewhat stilted presentational style could benefit from more polish in order to become more universally resonant.