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TAAL (article first published : 2000-11-25)

Taal, in Playhouse Drama for a short run until Sunday (November 26) evening, is billed as “an exploration of Indian music and dance”. However, this production focuses too heavily on the music input, particularly towards the end of the programme and this sets an imbalance for what is otherwise an enjoyable production.

Taal features the works of Pravika Nadkishore, wellknown for her performances with Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre, and Anju Narsai of the KwaZulu Dance Theatre. They are both respected exponents of the kathak and bharata natyam dance styles and Pravika was accompanied by her most senior dancers.

From its dramatic opening sequence in the prayer and incantation going on to the humorous and lively Nadaraja Anjati, the show offered a display of fine footwork and intricate hand gestures. The set had the feature of a lily pond centre stage which was used to charming effect in one of the pieces.

Calling themselves the Afrasians, the group of three excellent musicians in the first part of the programme became instant favourites with the audience. Richard Ellis, who runs his own drumming circle at the BAT Centre every week made a welcome appearance on a theatre stage with two equally fine percussionists Vishen Kemraj and Pregalathan Singaram. Vishen Kemraj is Taal’s music director and his performance on tablas, nagara and dholak – not to mention his verbal dynamics in some of the numbers – raised spontaneous applause.

Their percussion “dialogue” was exciting and stimulating as the phrases got shorter and shorter until their abrupt ending. Then Pravika Nandkishore and her dancers joined them to add their shimmering and bell-shod feet to the dialogue and the pace really hotted up!

While Anju Narsai’s Varaaga Nathi was lively and performed with gusto, the all-male group appeared a little under-rehearsed and unco-ordinated in this folk dance piece. The energetic style of kathak dance kept up the momentum with Tarana, another highlight of the evening performed with skirts a-swirl by Presheen Chetty, Jyothi Rugbeer and Tharishna Sewpersad.

Pravika Nandkishore is always an utter delight to watch, a performer of much grace and style. She shone in the work Nahin Samne Tu which explores the art form of Indian dance in a semi-classical idiom, seeing the dancer portraying a woman physically alone yet close to her lover in her head and her heart.

Accompanied by the contemporary Indian music group Sammelan, Charmaine Deol and Suren Sewrathen launched the audience into the beat of today – having appeared earlier in the programme with a more classical style of song. While the effervescent Suren was much in command and engaged with the audience, Charmaine looked a little reserved and unsure of herself.

Their second set was overlong and on the night I went, the audience was become a little restless as the production began to resemble a vocal concert rather than the music/dance mix it had promised.

The last item involved the full company of Pravika’s Kathak Kendra and Anju Narsai’s dancers of KZN Dance Theatre in a whirling and joyous finale which was only marred by an untidy curtain call.

Problems aside – the show is worth seeing, particularly for Pravika Nandkishore and the Afrasians! Tickets R35 via TicketWeb outlets nationwide. Credit card bookings on (031) 369-9444.




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