Appeasing Radhika is a project that brings together Indian classical music, dance and poetry to tell the story of Radhika, the mythological lover of the Hindu deity Krishna. Choreographer/dancer Malini Srinivasan and composer/violinist Arun Ramamurthy collaborate to tell the story; Roopa Mahadevan takes center stage in this new production. Musicians Max ZT, Jay Gandhi and Bala Skandan perform in the ensemble and composer Nivedita Shivraj creates additional music. Playwright Madhuri Shekar and Dramaturge Anjna Swaminathan develop content. The ensemble will create the work between January-October and present a work-in-progress of Appeasing Radhika with live music at Baruch Performing Arts Center on November 19, 2016 at 6pm.
This piece is rooted in the Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam, and its sister form of Carnatic music. The instrumentation includes classical Indian violin and mrdangam, as well as non-Indian instruments like the hammered dulcimer. Together, we will develop a unique aesthetic that is rooted in, but transcends Indian classical music and dance. The dancers and musicians in this piece intermingle closely on stage, at times stepping into the other medium, thus exploring the close link between music and movement.
Malini Srinivasan has been commissioning new music for dance for the past decade. Her choreography expands the Bharatanatyam vocabulary to express connections with diverse musical genres including New Music, Hindustani and Jazz. Arun Ramamurthy has created a body of work based on Carnatic ragas, or melodic scales, but expands their expressive range through dynamic arrangements and instrumentation. Both artists are committed to traditional forms as well as to cross-over works and creative collaboration. The project draws strength from the vibrant, and growing, Indian classical musical scene in NYC.
The performance is based on the controversial 18th century Telugu text ‘The Appeasement of Radhika’ written by Muddupalani. Muddupalani was a Devadasi, a woman artist of the South Indian courtesan community who was both a dancer and a writer. In the rapidly changing political climate in the early 20th century, her work was labeled ‘obscene’ and banned for its frank eroticism by a woman author. This work is today considered marginal and ignored by the dance community, though it provides us with an invaluable link with the Devadasis and our dance tradition.
Muddupalani’s text will be the starting point for new choreography and music that explores themes of love, loss, sexuality, aging and legacy. The goal of the project is to create an evocative interpretation of the text that will pave the way for bringing Devadasi literature back into our understanding and practice of classical Indian performing arts. These performing arts were almost wholly appropriated by the high-caste Brahmin community in the 20th century, while the Carnatic musical canon has excluded any content written by the Devadasi community of women. Performing material from this text is a way to assert the value and relevance of women’s writing and its vital connection to our artistic traditions. Appeasing Radhika will serve as a connection point for artists and audiences interested in Indian culture, mythology, feminism, history and literature.