By Shanti Ramrattan (Company Dancer)
It’s been a year-and-a-half journey for me as a performer with the Nava Dance Theatre, and every moment thus far has been an event-filled dancer’s dream. In-depth rehearsals, constantly evolving items, the birth of new characters, re-envisioned music…and a company of the most dedicated, talented artists committed to showing up and doing, growing, being together week after week. And recently, amidst all the whirlwind of production frenzy that (in the end at least) is the very satisfying nature of a performance, I had the opportunity to stop and be a spectator of The Cloud Messenger.
What I saw, and what I felt, was a rediscovery of what it means to be alive.
Let me explain. When my niece and nephew were born, I suddenly fell into the world in a powerfully revitalized way. I re-became curious and interested. As they explored and discovered the world around them, I was discovering anew…probing, questioning, being delighted by and wondering at things that had surrounded me all my life, but which I’d allowed to grow monochrome in the background of my ever-existent To-Do-list life.
Witnessing the journey of the Cloud, I felt that selfsame magic upon me. I ‘saw’ mountains from roots to peak, rivers flowing their meditative flow, lotuses blooming forth like Nature’s cheerleaders, and the perkiest peacock dance of all peacock-kind for the first time – again. But more than that, I experienced the allowance of enchantment. Through the eyes of the Cloud, I gave myself permission to notice – really notice the beauty of things in their essence.
When was the last time you contemplated the star-spangled evening sky? Or gazed at a school of fish darting about like synchronized swimmers in their grand Olympic routine? Or better yet, took in the aura of a person tumbling into love for the very first time?
Kalidasa’s poem Meghadutam, is a work of simple genius. It takes a humanesqe character, and charges him with the task of persuading a non-human, yet sentient, being to deliver a message of burgeoning love. Any of us who have been in the throes of love’s magic knows what an indisputably urgent message this is. But how do you express this urgency…To A Cloud? How do you move It? Incite that empathy? Convey the preciousness, the timeliness of an emotion so singular, so special it has launched wars and inspired the creation of World Wonders?
Our Yaksha hero takes the approach of enticement. You will see wonders, he explains. You will mesmer in the grandness of mountains, marvel at the sensation of a single raindrop. You will absorb the world around you into the definition of your existence, and be the happier for it.
And it works…for Cloud and for me. Nava’s artists breath life into this revelation and as our Cloud character explores the world, I do vicariously as well. I witness It’s journey into the jungle and think…I want to do that. I watch It pet the feathers of a bird and think of how eminently pettable birds are. I want to stand in the rain and feel the drops melt onto my face. As the Cloud awakens to the aliveness of existence, I too awaken to what it means to feel alive.
And in exquisite poetic harmony, just as I am learning my world again in full-color newness through the Cloud’s experience, I witness It’s growing understanding of what it means to feel love vicariously through the palpable emotion of our Yaksha Hero. Mission accomplished.
If there is any message that the Cloud delivers it is this one…that there is so much that is wonder-able about the human experience. So much to discover, explore, experience in your own backyard, with the people that surround you every day. With the person sitting next to you right this moment. With Nava’s vibrant new dance production happening just a short drive away, this very weekend :). Don’t sleep on these chances to evoke and awaken the resounding joy housed right within your spirit. Our newly-humanized Cloud wouldn’t.
How does one move a Cloud Spirit? Simple…allow yourself to be moved and It will follow.
Shanti studies Bharatanatyam under Smt. Katherine Kunhiraman and studied with the late Sri. KP Kunhiraman at Kalanjali Dances of India. She performed her Arangetram in 2003, and continues to perform in Kalanjali dance productions. She started dancing with Nava more than a year ago. See Shanti, and all the Nava Dancers in The Cloud Messenger, this weekend at CounterPulse.