The word I would use to describe this production is ‘intricate’. The costumes, for example, are lavish, embroidered, gold-shot silk (offset beautifully from the golden wall-paintings of the church that acts as the venue), and the dancers replete with detailed jewellery. The music is layered, with drums, voice, violin all playing their equally important part. Most of all, however, it’s the dancing itself that is intricate. The dancers are capable of hitting innumerable detailed poses in rapid succession. Their movements are remarkably precise: every finger knows where it is supposed to be and sometimes the slightest flick of the head and eyes can capture all your attention. The four performers are perfectly in tune with each other and some of the most exciting moments are the unison sequences, four women whirling together as though connected by strings, the bells on their ankles in time with the beat of the drums.
But this talk of aesthetics makes it sound as though Sacred Earth is simply spectacle, glorious to look at, but without much substance. Yet that’s not the case either. The style might be Indian classical, steeped in tradition, but the choreography is new and thoughtful. The dancers are not just technically talented, they can act as well. Throughout the dances they flirt, have arguments, run inside from the rain. Some sections to do with religious practices I found less engaging: the movements of prayer aren’t quite as human or gripping as the movements of altercations or liaisons. But these sections don’t jar or grate - they don’t detract from your enjoyment of the performance as a whole.
This production does what any good dance should: it has you marvelling at the skill and dexterity of the performers, but equally has you engaging with the emotions and situations expressed through their movement. It’s an intricate production in more than one way, not least in its combination of the spectacular and the sympathetic.