The Trinayan Collective

April 30, 2004

The Trinayan Collective
Merce Cunningham Studio

New York, New York

April 30–May 2, 2004

Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa


To witness the heartfelt performances of The Trinayan Collective—a New York-based Odissi ensemble—is to understand the meaning of bhakti (devotion) and of the spiritual greeting namaste (I bow to the god within you). In India, every step, glance, or ripple of sinuous hands, every intoned mantra, every sound struck or plucked on ancient instruments exalts the divine. Trinayan’s artists, by calling themselves a union of equals dedicated to a common cause, pay tribute to one another’s inherent divinity.

In the troupe’s most recent dance suite, “Neel: The Eternal Blue,” the color refers to the skin tones of numerous Hindu deities, including blue-black Kali and blue-throated Shiva. Blue is also associated with the throat chakra (a portal and vortex within the body’s subtle energy fields) and governs expression. One can view “Neel” as a flowering of the eternal divine unity into numerous complementary forms—song, poetry, music, video, dance, and mimetic, storytelling movements.

Odissi is best known for its curvy, sculpted shapes—bent knee pointing one way, opposite hip jutting in counterbalance, head tilted, arms curled in front and overhead—reminiscent of figures carved in temple architecture. Nandini Sikand revealed the dark aspect of the goddess Saraswati in Matangi, a short, sweet solo created by the renowned Guru Shri Durga Charan Ranbir. Sikand’s slender arms and nimble fingers moved in precise patterns and mudras (sacred gestures), most vividly depicting Matangi strumming a veena (lute), symbol of Saraswati’s stewardship of music and all arts.

Alicia Pascal and Taiis Pascal, breathtaking models of serenity and discipline, ennobled every piece they danced, particularly the rather modernistic duet Ashta Shambhu. The two women, whose costumes blended traditional puffy pantaloons with sleek black leotards, retold stories of Shiva in a modern-dance staging by Taiis.

And in Suryastakam, Bani Ray, one of Trinayan’s teachers, virtually gave a master class in traditional facial expressions reminiscent of American silent film acting. Part of the work’s magic was Ray’s lone moving image captured in a windowpane leading out onto the Manhattan night. As this beautiful reflection performed yoga’s sun salutation, the Empire State Building floated above her, fog-shrouded but glowing in orange light.

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