Sacred flow

Rivers carry gifts of life and energy. They leave legacies of beauty, wealth and hope. But they also speak of grief and despair. They hold in their hearts terrifying narratives of devastation.

By Dance - Kathakali Jana
  • Published 2.06.18
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Rivers carry gifts of life and energy. They leave legacies of beauty, wealth and hope. But they also speak of grief and despair. They hold in their hearts terrifying narratives of devastation.

There are many great stories - known and unknown - that rivers can tell. Magnificent watercourses, such as the Ganga in India and the Tay in Scotland, have countless myths and mysteries surrounding them. Bashabi Frazer's modern epic poem, "From the Ganga to the Tay", is an imagined dialogue between these two fabled rivers that discovers connections between India and Scotland, the two countries that are nurtured by them.

The British Council, which has completed 70 years in India, along with The Bengal recently facilitated the creation of a dance drama based on Frazer's admirable poem and presented it at the ICCR auditorium. What turned out to be a fine production was conceptualized by the filmmaker, Amalesh Dasgupta.

Rhythmosaic Dance Institute was commissioned for the project that brought two dance forms together to explore the poem's engagement with the origins, mythology, common concerns and identities of the two rivers. The vocabularies of Kathak and classical ballet were called upon to speak with their innate elegance, precision and grace on behalf of the rivers.

While the challenge was to create a visual language of fluidity, calm and equipoise, it had to encompass within it the power to break out into the vagaries of turbulence, chaos and destruction. Mitul Sengupta, Ronnie Shambik Ghosh and Prasanna Saikia worked out a dance language that spoke like rivers that are always changing, and are forever on the move.

Their idiom explored the sacred origins of the rivers, the sunlight and rains they receive, the lives they support in their catchment, their shared history and the diversity in their cultures, the extraordinary dynamics of the cities of Calcutta and Dundee, the crushing fears of nuclear war and environmental catastrophe that beleaguer them.