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Elixir at Springhead - A Review

Subathra Subramaniam who is Sadhana Dance's Artistic Director was co-commissioned by Activate to produce a new piece 'Elixir' where man's cultural relationship to water was to be explored.

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It was conceived as a piece to be performed in theatres and successfully premiered at The Point in Eastleigh back in February. Subathra then re-worked the entire piece to blend in harmony with Springhead - a lakeside venue with its own fresh water spring in North Dorset where sustainability is their driving force. Sadhana had been invited to spend a week's residency there by Ros Conlon, Dance Producer at Activate. The week involved residency workshops with local schools, open rehearsals and artist talks.

Before Elixir was performed local children who had participated in the earlier workshops danced in amongst the stunning garden setting of Springhead using traditional bharatanatyam hand movements. A real delight.

Sadhana had two performances scheduled. Friday evening's premiere took place on a balmy evening but things had changed radically by Saturday. Heavy rain and high winds gave a worrying outlook but the company were determined to dance outdoors unless it became physically impossible.

The performance opened with the chanting of Sanskrit slokas by singer-dancer Divya Kasturi as one of three figures clad in white Grecian tunics arrived with bowls of water which they set down before beginning a ritual of washing and invoking the spirits. Each moved to her own rhythm and faced her own direction and yet there was harmony between this apparent individualism.  Feet - usually bare - were clad in pumps breaking the strict rule of bharatanatyam due to the incessant rain. This perfectly illustrated how Subathra incorporates selective pieces from bharatanatyam and adds graceful, contemporary movements and rhythms; necks and torsos, wrists and fingers are articulated with a sensuousness and hypnotic beauty. The rain allowed for stamping and flicking of the water that had gathered on stage and really added to the audience's enjoyment. There was such a sense of tension as there was a collective will urging the dancers on and praying they didn't slip. A conversation with the company at the Cafe Scientifique afterwards however reassured us that they had actually rehearsed their 'wettest' version that they had pre-prepared in the event of rain. The rainy weather really focused the mind of the audience on the subject matter and allowed a greater appreciation of the jewel-like water droplets created by the precise and delicate engineering of Josh Baum’s water themed sculptural art installation that is also an integral part of the Elixir experience.

It felt like a magical evening where the audience really connected with the dancers, the environment and the elements.

 

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