ATMA Dance / Mayuri Boonham at The Place

Two pieces of work, each linked by the same creative team and the same inspirations, provided an intriguing, provocative and original evening of dance at The Place – where traditional Indian and contemporary moves collided and where the drumming of Steve Reich met the rhythm of the ghatam.

ATMA is a new company under the direction of Mayuri Boonham and it is she who choreographed the two pieces: Sivaloka inspired by the Elephanta Temple and Ghatam which takes Steve Reich’s piece Drumming as an inspirtantion but fuses the sounds of the aforementioned instrument with the beat of the dancer themselves. They stand as two separate pieces but are intimately linked through ideas and interpretation with the same creative team working on both.

Boonham’s choreography uses traditional Indian moves with a contemporary accent – accentuation and sharpness gives way to sensuality and delight, a pause can become a challenge – and this is complemented by the music (by Tapan Raj and Gaurav Raina) where ancient sounds merge with modern beats and electric instruments. The setting over both pieces is similar with a stark light illuminating the shape of the dance, leaving the rest of the stage in darkness. The same four dancers are in both pieces too: Boonham is joined by Archana Ballal, Shreya Kumar and Pauline Reibell and the style – to my completely untrained eye – follows a pattern of call and response between pairs. At the start of Sivaloka the women are curled tight, only slowly reaching out. By the end of Ghatam they are a force of nature and the evening ends with an ecstatic leap into darkness.

This was a wonderful evening’s entertainment with the only downside being the less than half-full auditorium. It is ATMA’s first tour so hopefully word of mouth will ensure that there are more the next time they come to town. The skill, passion and intelligence of their dancing deserves an audience.

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