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The New York Sun
March 8, 2005 Tuesday

LENGTH: 1075 words
HEADLINE: Visual Vocabulary Revisited

You hear it from Eve Ensler - creator of "The Vagina Monologues" - the time that women spend at their vanity tables is pretty much wasted.

"How do you keep women out of power?" she wrote in a feature that appeared, ironically, in Glamour magazine. "Keep us in front of the mirror. It's like women have been given a little country called our bodies, which we get to tyrannize while men get all of the world. If we were to cut even by a quarter the amount of money and the amount of time we spend fixing ourselves, do you know what the planet would be like?"

But the decisions that go into "fixing ourselves" - in all their complexities and the sheer magnitude of them - are fascinating and, in their way, important. Why do we take so much time to get dressed, to select our clothes, shoes, jewelry, lipstick? Ultimately, it's because we define ourselves in our choices.

While Ms. Ensler might hope that women cut back on that narcissistic decision-making process, there are a number of creative artists who are exploring and finding inspiration from it.

Over the weekend at the Puffin Room, choreographer Adrienne Celeste Fadjo, of ACFDance, presented an excerpt from her forthcoming contemporary piece "HOMEwork." In it, three dancers dressed as men rumble with one another, but they stop everything when two pretty girls slink by.

The girls (dressed modestly and identically) proceed to sit on stools and help each other with their hair and makeup. It's a slow, tender process, and each spends a healthy portion of her stage time looking at herself in an imaginary mirror (the audience). In the press notes, Ms Fadjo explains that the "women make themselves beautiful, although their reflections show more distinctly when not looking in the mirror."

Indeed, she choreographed the movements so that when the women look in the mirror, they go through poses: stretching the neck and allowing the eye to scan for flaws. By contrast, the women look natural and serene when they turn to each other.

The work - which will be presented in full this fall - seems to suggest that when we want to look our best, we should allow others to direct us. Impractical, of course. But it raises the question: How do we know if our choices are wise? What does or doesn't the mirror tell us?

Choreographer Myna Mukherjee, the artistic director of the Nayikas Dance Theater Company, explores similar questions in her program "Glow," coming up this week at the Rubin Museum of Art. On this seven-piece program, Ms. Mukherjee combines Indian classical dance with various other styles of movement. Thematically, three of the works are related to the transformations that women go through when they prepare to greet the outside world.

In "Saveri Pallavi" (which translates to "Beautiful Woman Dressing Up"), two women, quite literally, get dressed: Each one puts on traditional makeup, a bindi, silver belt, and sari. The work comes from a traditional context; adornment is one of the nine "moods" in Indian dance. (Others include happiness, pain, and surprise.)

Her more abstract choreography, in "Dasa Maha Vidyas," explores the idea of adornment and spirituality. Ms. Mukherjee describes it as a riff on "how the feminine divine is not restricted to the manifestation of the goddess, but in everyday events."

The title work, "Glow," takes the notion into even greater abstraction and more thoughtful territory. "What makes a woman feel like she's glowing? Luminescence is not restricted to form," said Ms. Mukherjee.

There is an enormous gulf between Ms. Mukherjee - who wants to understand what produces radiance in women - and Ms. Ensler, who might prefer that luminescence is restricted to light bulbs and fireflies. Women should be preparing not for cocktails, but for world domination.

I've got one more example for you. Singer Gwen Stefani, on her new album, pays homage to the Japanese Harajuku girls - the fashion-obsessed teenagers who wear outlandish outfits more suited to the runway than the sidewalk.

In one line she puts it rather neatly: "Your underground culture / Visual grammar / the language of your clothing is something to encounter." What's in that "visual grammar"? What does the language of that clothing communicate? Something more powerful, I think, than Ms. Ensler gives it credit for.

Nayikas Dance Theater Company will perform at The Rubin Museum of Art, at 150 West 17th Street, on March 17, 18 and 19.Tickets are $25. For more information call 212-620-5000 ex. 344 or write

ACFDance can be reached

The New York Times
March 18, 2005 Friday

Performing Arts/Weekend Desk; Pg. 27
The Listings

A selective listing by critics of The Times: New or noteworthy dance events this weekend in the New York metropolitan region. * denotes a highly recommended event. Full reviews of recent performances:

NAYIKAS DANCE THEATER Billing itself as New York's first resident dance theater company specializing in the Indian classical Odissi form, the troupe will perform the director Myna Mukherjee's ''Glow,'' a new multimedia dance and theater piece that draws on the glowing sensuality of women. Tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m., Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, Manhattan, (212) 620-5000, ext. 344. Tickets: $25; $18 for students and 65+.

The New York Times
March 19, 2005 Saturday
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section B; Column 1; The Arts/Cultural Desk; DANCE REVIEW; Pg. 15
LENGTH: 268 words
HEADLINE: Ancient and Modern Forms Animate a Passage to India

There was a glow to ''Glow,'' a program of works that was presented by the Nayikas Dance Theater Company on Thursday night at the handsome new Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea. But the radiance came from the obvious love for Indian art, myth and religion that informed the multimedia evening rather than from the choreography or performing.

Billed as New York City's first resident troupe to perform the Indian classical dance form of Odissi, the all-female Nayikas offered a vivid exploration of the art and legend surrounding this pure ancient dance. The look is lyrical, rounded and sensuous, as the helpful program notes pointed out. But Odissi has a very specific vocabulary and style. The Nayikas dancers had little of the necessary focus or sense of fine detail in the four most traditional segments (''MangalaCharan -- Ganesh Stuti,'' ''Pallavi -- Saveri,'' ''Das Mahavidya'' and ''Mokshya and Shloka''), restaged and rechoreographed by company director Myna Mukherjee. Several of the dancers looked like young advanced students.

Hints of ballet, Bollywood and martial arts moves could be seen occasionally in the traditional pieces. Ms. Mukherjee also presented two more modern dances (''Faces of a Name'' and an individual work also called ''Glow''), but neither felt any more authentic than the other pieces. And the limited vocabulary that Ms. Mukherjee used in ''Glow,'' a look at the paradoxes of modern Indian women, suggested that her greater gift is visual. The projected images of the dark goddess Kali and her worshippers and the program's explanation of them were fascinating and provocative.


GRAPHIC: Photo: In Chelsea: members of the Nayikas Dance Theater Company. (Photograph by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times)


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