August 18, 2015
The third annual “Drive East Festival,” presented 20 shows over 7 nights at the La Mama theatre in the East Village. The performances bring South Asian performing arts into the limelight with traditional dancing, costumes, and music on display. Wednesday’s evening’s second performer Niharika Mohanty danced an hour-long collection of Odissi solos.
Part one “Shantakaram Mangalacharan,” starts with Mohanty acknowledging the Hindu Lord of the Universe and Mother Nature. Her costume, a deep blue dress with an ornamental white sash and jewelry drapes her body. Hips swish side to side in slow movements, stepping onto stage with shapely and direct hand gestures. Small red eyes appear at palms center. The eyes lead the movement, with intense focus and a striking gaze that invites the audience in to follow along. Part two “Behag Pallavii,” is more technical in form. Mohanty relies on the support of the music with its intricate rhythms to lead each step.
Part three “Yahi Madhave,” includes spoken word and a narrative structure. Mohanty gestures as the words are read aloud. In a theatrical manner she leads the story expressing a lover’s forlorn and at times a very comedic side.
The series closes with “Jaya Mahesha,” journies through “the unending circle of life and death.” Mohanty entrances gliding through the space but staying grounded in her phrases. Her wit and candor shine through with stylistic choices in a traditional and structured form.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon