Dance review: Sari, Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, three stars

Mostly, when we see Indian dance, it’s in a virtuoso display of classical styles – usually Kathak or Bharatanatyam. We rarely see what innovative choreographers are currently making, so Sari – performed by the Daksha Sheth Dance Company as part of India@UK 2017 – is both a surprise and a delight in its weaving together of hybrid forms and mixed-media. And weaving is an operative word here.

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On-screen and on-stage, the images that Sheth references are rooted in the making of cloth, from the spinning of thread to the dyeing of fabrics, from the rhythms of the busy loom to the wonderful swish of joyously bright material folding around the wearers of India’s national garment, the sari. At the same time as the practical processes are evoked, Sheth’s episodic narrative offers a symbolic strand that sees social interactions and unity as the necessary weft and warp of our lives.

This is a vast and complex canvas to contain within an hour, and some sections come and go with a maddening alacrity. What remains, however, is the vivid impression of six dazzlingly versatile dancers who can switch from classical footwork to springy folk-dance steps, put a percussive stomp on martial arts moves or even get airborne – the aerial sequences, appropriately using what are known in acrobatics as “silks”, are eye-catching witnesses to the shared strengths of bodies and cloths combining in graceful flight. Amidst all this buoyant energy, Sheth herself appears in an exquisite classical solo where her rituals of getting dressed suggest a longed-for assignation with, perhaps, Krishna. Moments later, she’s in a rhythmic dialogue with her ensemble, traditions melding with contemporary dance, and all as stylistically adaptable as the sari itself.