Let the Crows Come is an amalgam of traditional Bharatanatyam (Indian) dance – the bridge between spiritual and physical worlds – and contemporary movement à la Martha Graham. Crows are Hindu messengers for the living and guides for the dead. During Pitru Paksha, Hindus honor their ancestors. A mixture of sandlewood and camphor is burned, then rice is offered to the black birds.
Considerable arm and finger movement evokes wing and flight but not so much that an avian theme is omnipresent. Were it not for crow silhouettes appearing and fading out on the floor, one might forget the metaphor.
Berit Ahlgren, Ashwini Ramaswamy, Alanna Morris (Photo by Jaime Halbritter)
A sustained electronic hum is joined by live violin, drum and wordless vocal. Three dancers perform. Dressed in national costume, Ramaswamy adheres most to what has been passed down through the ages. Smooth, slow movement, wide steps, repeated hand and articulate finger movement…every gesture precise…circling, reaching; henna bare feet slapping the floor…bobble head…knees bend…leap, step, step, step, leap…backward turn-dipping… One leg bent against the other holding fast…She’s elegant, graceful, and though in motion, often extremely still.
Berit Ahlgren specializes in Gaga, a choreographed language developed by Israeli Ohad Naharin. Her moves, though steeped in custom, seem more expansive. Leap left, leap right, arms circle the head to waist…step, step… extend one leg, flex foot and bow…arms up, kick, arms sway, twirl…arms circle (clap sounds)…undulation…reach, twirl…music swells and slows…(electronic notes) She’s strong and supple.
Berit Ahlgren, Ashwini Ramaswamy, Alanna Morris Photo by Jake Armour
Alanna Morris trained in modern dance. Hers is the least circumscribed movement. Elements of the past remain, but there’s more abruptness here, less flow. Hands in prayer… (wordless chorale)… shoulders lead, waist swivels… (bells)… knees to the floor…on the balls of her feet, bent double, reaching…fingers gyrate…elbows bend like wings…much leaping…deep plie, springs up…(plucked notes). She’s nimble.
The women move across the floor, each on her own trajectory, leaving one after the other to solo. At the end they gather around a pile of rice which runs through fingers like time.
Choreography is so similar (not the same) as unmelodic music drones the experience is somewhat hypnotic. I missed having a story.
Opening photo by Jake Armour
Ashwini Ramaswamy: Let the Crows Come
Dancers: Ashwini Ramaswamy, Berit Ahlgren and Alanna Morris Concept/Lead Choreography and Direction- Ashwini Ramaswamy
Co-Choreography- Berit Ahlgren and Alanna Morris
Jerome Robbins Theater Baryshnikov Arts Center