"Mutka: A Liberated Woman" was performed by Barkha Dance Company at The Strand Theatre.
Women have the power. All can be accomplished, all can be overcome if women acknowledge and release their oft dormant courage and fortitude.
That is the message from Barkha Dance Company, an all-female kathak dance company that performed its “Mukta, A Woman Liberated” on Saturday night at The Strand Theatre in Hudson Falls. While the work is not fully formed, the evening-length dance is well on its way to becoming a work that can speak to all audiences.
This is not always the case with kathak – the storytelling dance/pantomime that is often beyond the comprehension of Western audiences. But as conceived and choreographed by Artistic Director Barkha Patel, “Mukta” is an overt and honest portrayal of women's struggles and triumphs.
As in many cultures, the “Mukta” women are tied up, pulled in conflicting directions and, in general, maintain second-class roles. Yet by invoking Hindu goddesses of knowledge, wealth and power, the Nayikas (heroines) realize that they can “launch themselves toward any dream they desire.”
The piece initially lures the eye with its beauty. A cast of seven, including Patel, are clad in colorful vests and white skirts that billow softly around their belled ankles. Dancing in formation and assembling intricate and synchronized hand-gestures, they conjure the spirits that comfort and press them to fight.
The choreography is full-bodied. The dancers battle unseen oppressors with both with fists and arrows, the latter a metaphor for their spiritual discharge. They also demand with assertive flat-footed stomping that echoed to the far-reaches of the theater. Finally, they vanquish the enemy (often found within their own minds) and rise to their full potential.
All is accompanied to music by Kedar Pandit and narration by Juhi Desai, who is also among the dancers.
Patel, however, holds sway every time she steps on the stage. A captivating dancer, she is both sharp, but soft, strong, but feminine. She is an engaging stage presence.
The Strand stage is not ideal, however. The theater, which just opened a month ago, is not fully complete. A back curtain would do wonders to hide the back wall, which is unattractive in a dance setting.
The lighting is also too bright, stealing from some of the work’s mystery. This made the spotlight, which didn’t follow the dancers anyway, essentially invisible and impotent.
Other than technical glitches, “Mukta” is enjoyable. I hope Barkha Dance Company returns with the finished product.