My review for the Chronicle:
“The ODC Theater Festivals’ “New Traditionalists” slate has a political point to make: Isn’t so-called “ethnic dance” contemporary dance too? Why should styles like Kathak or West African get marginalized as “culturally specific” while modern and postmodern dance – which arise from their own, mostly Caucasian, post-Martha Graham traditions (and which can certainly look “culturally specific” to plenty of baffled first-time viewers) – get labeled mainstream art?
It’s a point that’s ripe in the Bay Area, where our region’s claim to the highest per-capita dance activity in the United States rests heavily on our dazzling diversity of dance styles. And it’s a perspective that’s welcome if it gets master artists like Hearan Chung and Vishnu Tattva Das in front of new audiences. Two-thirds of this program, which repeats tonight at Project Artaud Theater, ODC Theater’s temporary home, is a mesmerizing display of total theatrical command.
The most enchanting discovery here is Das, a practitioner of Odissi, one of India’s eight classical dance forms. Two others of those eight forms, the powerfully percussive Kathak and the somewhat gentler Bharatanatyam, are well represented in the Bay Area; Das creates an equal fascination with Odissi with a single performance.
Draped in cream and red silk and silver baubles, his chest bare, Das brings to life the Hindu deity Krishna with the rise of an eyebrow, his heavy-lidded eyes radiating sensuality. His arms flow like gentle rivers; his legs move in slow-motion control; his bell-bedecked feet occasionally stamp bursts of precise rhythms. The stance in Odissi is with knees turned out (rather than knees facing forward, as in Kathak); Das makes a drama of every deep leg bend, the long pleats of his costume fanning wide with a curious graciousness.”
Click here for the full review.