Exquisite Indian Dance, Dance Base, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

In Fringe venues, you can hear Indian classical dancers coming, their ankle bells jingling as they walk from dressing room to stage.

In Fringe venues, you can hear Indian classical dancers coming, their ankle bells jingling as they walk from dressing room to stage. This double bill at Dance Base shows two styles of dance, Kathak and Odissi. The music is taped - but there's some marvellous dancing.

Bijayini Satpathy and her student Surupa Sen are Odissi dancers, trained in a classical style from eastern India. Odissi poses are full of contrasts: the hips tilt one way, the torso sways the other. Any move throws the body into a new set of sensuous curves. In one travelling step, both women raise one hand and turn it at the wrist. As those hands turn, their bodies follow, eyes glancing from side to side, heads and shoulders tilting delicately as they sidle across the floor.

Satpathy's final solo, Jatayu Moksh, is an episode from the epic Ramayan. The dance illustrates a sung story, with mime gestures. Sen demonstrates the basic gestures, and then Satpathy weaves them through the number, using dance steps and floor patterns to give them new force.

A demon tries to kidnap the beautiful Sita, and sends a golden deer to decoy her husband Rama out of the way. As the deer, Satpathy circles the stage in bounding antelope leaps, with crisp springs up and forwards. She holds one hand up to represent the deer's head, then uses her own face to suggest its flirtatious wiles.

Satpathy is both inside and outside her story. She takes on different characters, sometimes with amused, ironic comment. When Rama realises he has been tricked, he settles his warrior belt with slow, comic dignity.

Back at the palace, the demon scoops up the earth on which Sita stands and pops her into his chariot. Satpathy shows Sita's horror, then switches to become the demon, eyes rolling, shoulders lifted to suggest his great bulk. Her drumming feet become his horses' hooves, her body swaying with the chariot's pace. It all happens in a few steps danced on a diagonal that suggests the chariot's speed.

It is a richly decorated story. There always seems to be room for more detail: Rama's eager attention as he hunts the deer; the demon disguising himself as a beggar to lure the charitable Sita from her palace. The piece never loses momentum.

Aditi Mangaldas trained in the Kathak form, but she's a modernist, adding naturalistic gestures, modern instruments and lighting. In Winter, she dances with her back to the audience. Narayan Chauhan's lighting design suggests weak afternoon sunshine. In Monsoon, Mangaldas drums her heels for raindrops, and shivers as drops land on her, or wrings out wet clothes and hair. She returns to more traditional mime for a bird with soaked feathers.

Mangaldas is an emphatic dancer. She whisks through her gestures: the movement doesn't flow from the torso, and she sometimes clips it short. But her sense of naturalistic detail is very appealing.

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