Wednesday, June 06, 2012

It was hot all the way

A dance programme, ‘Hot Steps’, organised by the Verb School of Dance, delighted a Kochi audience

Photos: Aparna Gopinath (centre) with the Mamas; Vinu John and Virginia Benjamin doing the salsa. 

Pics: Mithun Vinod

By Shevlin Sebastian 

The Chennai-based Verb School of Dance came to do two days of salsa classes. Encouraged by the response, they did a summer coaching camp for children as well as elders. Six weeks later, with their students, they did a show called ‘Hot Steps’, on Saturday, at the Fine Arts Hall, Kochi.

And what an event it was. It began when dancers in brown jackets with hoods, stood around holding a sheet. Underneath were other dancers who were writhing and shaking their bodies. The music was pulsating, with a thumping beat. The dancers picked flags and swayed from side to side. Sometimes, they broke into a break dance.

The age range was remarkable: from five-year-olds to middle-aged mamas. When the children performed, it was to lyrics like ‘Oh Girl you are mine, I wanna be with you.’ At the end of the dance, the climax was a wink by the youngsters to the audience, which looked sweet and endearing.

Each dance sparkled, because of the vibrant music, mixed by DJ Savio and stunning costumes. Sometimes, it was black pants, shirts, and shoes, with glittering jackets. At other times, it was blue sleeveless tops and silver trousers. Or it was white and red tracksuits, or orange trousers. One group wore a yellow T-shirt with the inscription, ‘Give Your Fat The Boot’. During their dance, a couple of the boys leapt from the stage and landed just inches before the front row.  

And all types of dances were performed: Western Contemporary, Disco, Broadway, Bollywood, Hip-Hop, Jive, Jewish country folk and Salsa. In total, there were 35 dancers.

Definitely, the highlight was the salsa by Verb founder-director Vinu John and his colleague Virginia Benjamin. Vinu, looking lithe and muscular, in a tight black shirt and trousers, was electrifying with his quick-silver moves, broad grin, and positive energy. Virginia was a good match and their dance movements were mesmerising, to say the least. During one segment, Vinu picked up the leg of Virginia, and strummed her calf like guitar strings.

The Kochi connection was set off by the Jewish folk song, ‘Hava Nageela’. Girls sat on the floor, wearing red pinafores, and swung yellow ribbons at the end of sticks. The haunting folk song had a soothing effect.

And the mamas, not to be outdone, rocked to the ‘Chikni Chameli’ song from the film ‘Agneepath’. They wore skirts and blouses, with alternating blue and red panels. The women were having a blast, shaking their bodies, moving back and forth, and taking deep breaths through open mouths.

Aparna Gopinath, Vinu’s wife, caught the eye, with her sheer energy and joy. It seemed that dance had enabled her to shed inhibitions, which had suffocated her for years, and she expressed a sense of freedom that women rarely enjoy in India. “Dance is my passion,” says Aparna, who is also an actor, director, and choreographer. “I love being on stage.”

Audience member Padmini Krishnan says, “The show was beautifully choreographed. Many of them had never danced before, but still they put a good show. Their energy was contagious.”

Thanks also to lively compering by Anjali Uthup Kurian, it was a fun way to spend an evening.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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