When you begin alluding everything to one particular aspect of your life, you know it resonates to the core of your being. The distinguished classical dance practice of Bharatanatyam has become that very all encompassing reference point for dancer Angela Saber-Zaimian, performing at the 16th Lalit Arpan Festival inspired by the Upanishad verse ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti with an ode to bahuda, the spirit of plurality. “I can draw parallels to the structure and form of Bharatanatyam to everything around me. It’s as though I am an architect of my dance,” she says.
When Zaimian, who goes by her stage name Radha Anjali, started learning alarippu (traditionally, the first dance piece that Bharatanatyam dancers learn) from dancer Dilnawaz Bana in Vienna in 1969, she wondered if there was a secret behind learning it. When she read stories about ancient temple dancers, how dance was both appreciated and condemned, and sometimes even forbidden, made it very exciting for her to delve into the subject’s history. Studying ballet helped her gain a better understanding of its physicality as she discovered that Bharatanatyam followed a logical structure in postures and movements.
At Lalit Arpan Festival, she will be accompanied by artistes including Gangani Parivar (tabla and pakhawaj jugalbandi), Sanchita Abrol (Kathak), Sunil Mehra and Askari Naqvi (Dastangoi), Zakia Zaheer and Syeda Hameed and Rene Singh (drama, music and storytelling), each presenting an artistic order that embodies things they hold closely.
In her performance, Anjali will personify Shantanu and Ganga, Yudhisthira, Draupadi and Krishna. Her dance group will take the parts of Shakuni, Indra and Yama. The storytelling will be accompanied by images and movie projections. “Though the Mahabharata is an old epic, it still has relevance today, in that nature is cursed, women are fighting for their rights and war is still on,” says the dancer who was born and brought up in Vienna, Austria. She got her education at the Waldorfschule/Rudolf Steiner School in Vienna and later studied Philosophy. She came to India first for the time with her parents in 1972.
She looks forward to all her India visits but loves seeing youngsters pick up classical dance forms and extracting their own unique meaning from it. But she hopes Bharatanatyam survives as there is too much ‘fast food’ dancing these days. “Mixing classical with semi-classical dance is the beginning of an end. There is space for new discoveries within the classical form itself and that’s where my growth lies,” she says. September 21-22, at 7 pm, at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre.