Mavin Khoo - Pushing the boundaries of Bharatanatyam

Mavin Khoo, a dancer with global exposure, based in the UK, has been pushing the boundaries of Bharatanatyam with his imaginative choreographies. At the Narada Gana Sabha, Mavin exhorted the audience to travel with him as he explored bhakti and sringara through his compositions. According to him, his dance is not ‘set’, but it is something extempore, that evolves onstage to the orchestra to explores ideas. The evening commenced with an invocation dance rooted in devotion and a throwback to his days in Malaysia where the azaan from the mosque mingled with the prayers from the Devi temple. In the varnam in Shankarabharanam, Samikki sari yevvare, Mavin allowed the exemplary orchestra (vocal accompaniment by Brinda Manickavasagam) to have their own moments, as he stood still as a spectator, music reverberating through his body, creating a silent dance. When he danced, he chose to explore the lyrics through simple relatable ideas like the nayika getting mesmerised with the idol of the lord and caressing it lovingly and imagining his presence and their time together, only to be woken up to the reality by the sakhi. It was viraha front and center, not the earth-shattering kind, delivered without metaphors illuminating the sweet pain of separation. Simplicity and stillness were in play throughout the varnam, and

Mavin took stillness to great heights. In a segment in the anupallavi, Mavin emoted to a description of the king through the lyrics Bhaskarendra. Positioning himself a bit deep into the stage with his back to the audience, one arm in dola and the other on the waist, the nayika watched the procession approaching from a distance, with the orchestra playing a mallari (composed by Aditya Prakash). The procession neared him, then went past him and disappeared in the distance. This portrayal was so intense that the audience could visualise the procession with the same awe he exuded. Mavin also performed a Jayadeva ashtapadi sitting down, which did not work for such a huge sabha. The audience in the front rows, would have had an intimate experience though. He gratefully recalled the days he spent learning with his guru Adyar K Lakshman where he learnt to ingest music into his body. The extempore nature of his dance also was restrictive as he was repeating a few sets of movements and a small span of the stage