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Dance Review

'Inspired Reflections' Rattled by Volume

April 25, 1998|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

"Each man kills the thing he loves," Oscar Wilde once reminded us. But he never mentioned that some do it with a volume-control dial. Case in point: the magnificent South India classical dance idiom Bharata Natyam, which has survived nearly 3,000 years without any help from the amplifiers, loudspeakers and reverberation technology inflicted on it Thursday during a program titled "Inspired Reflections" at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. The Fountain seats only 78 people, but not even "Riverdance" at the cavernous Pantages pumps up the decibels so drastically that you feel some of your cells die each time the six musicians launch another ensemble assault. The art of Bharata Natyam all but dies as well.

The evening features Southland Bharata Natyam specialist Viji Prakash, her 15-year-old daughter Mythili, seven members of her Shakti Dance Company plus the musicians and vocalists. Everyone works devotedly to convey a sense of the spiritual richness of Indian culture and the glittering, mercurial splendor of a dance form that prizes the rhythmic slap of bare feet on the floor nearly as much as the intricate play of emotions across a dancer's face, but to little avail.

Prakash senior emphasizes the interpretative dimension in solos that capitalize on sudden, utterly persuasive transitions between conflicting states of feeling. "The Lover's Reproach," with its superbly rendered proto-feminist scorn, is especially effective as a showcase for her intelligence and intensity. In contrast, Prakash junior glories in high-speed pure-dance passages and the company as a whole looks best in the sculptural poses and geometric configurations of "The Lotus Blossoming" choreography.

However, the unremitting loudness of the music proves not only painful in itself but ruinous to the expressive subtlety and contemplative depth of Bharata Natyam expression. Yes, in India musicians are currently amplified in large halls--but with the tact and taste one expects from Indian artists and not, as at the Fountain, with the pointless overkill evident Thursday.

* "Inspired Reflections" continues tonight at 8 and Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood. $30. (213) 663-1525.

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