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Review: Shantala Shivalingappa's 'Namasya'

Merilyn Jackson says Shantala Shivalingappa brings spare elegance and beauty to the four solos she performs in tribute to her teachers and mentors, particularly Pina Bausch.

By Merilyn Jackson

The moment Shantala Shivalingappa appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's in Tanztheater Wuppertal's Bamboo Blues in 2008, the audience inhaled collectively as if a floral scent had suddenly wafted onto the stage. It had.

It wasn't the first time Shivalingappa danced with Pina Bausch's company, but it was the first whiff of her we had in the States. She appeared shorter, more adorably childlike than the older, wiser, perhaps jaded, Wupertallers.

At the Arts Bank Sunday night she danced four solos in a brief evening she devised, looking anything but childlike. She called the evening Namasya, an homage to her teachers and mentors, not the least of whom was the late and still-mourned Bausch.

Bausch choreographed Shivalingappa's second piece called "Solo" for her. Shivalingappa's elegant legs, hidden under a shimmering bronzed ball-gown, made wide-legged squats spreading the skirt in two opposite directions as she turned her thoroughbred profile to the audience, her polished arms hovering in a straight line over her thighs.

Butoh-master and Sankai Juku founder Ushio Amagatsu, choreographed the first solo, "Ibuki." In white pants and belly-baring vest, Shivalingappa splays her curling fingers, resting her up-angled arms elbow over elbow. She begins and ends the dance lying on her side propped up on one elbow as if floating lazily downstream on a raft.

In the middle of her own dance, "Shift," she stalks the stage as if to find another starting point. In "Smarana" by Savitry Nair (her mother), she sits with her back to the audience, those shoulders carved like stone by Nicolas Boudier's lighting. Once up and dancing she crouches, turning in a tight circle to the thrumming of a sitar. All four dances had elements of the South-Indian Kuchipundi form for which she is famous, but looked spare and modern.

$25-$30. 8 p.m. 9/12, Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St.

Also in Play with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, $25-30. 8 p.m. 9/15-17, Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street