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Washington Post 2006

Dakshina’s Unusual Pairing

By Pamela Squires
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, July 17, 2006; Page C05

Daniel Phoenix Singh’s potential as a modern dance choreographer was clear and unmistakable in the program of contemporary and Indian classical works presented Saturday at Dance Place by his company, Dakshina. What remains to be seen is whether he can go beyond his own technical limitations as a dancer and choreograph works for others that are beyond what he himself can dance.

Singh trained locally in bharatnatyam (Indian classical dance) with Meena Telikicherla and holds dance degrees from the University of Maryland. Cross-pollination informs his modern-dance works; arms are as important as steps. He has a predilection for storytelling, a good sense of structure and a taste for letting music share the stage (perhaps reflecting the equal role music plays in bharatnatyam).

In his languid duet “Lullaby,” the arms tell the story, reaching out, entwining, drawing the dancers together as they explore a relationship. “Cycles,” “Postcards,” “Ghosts in the Bedroom” and work-in-progress “Neither/Nor” follow suit, using gesture to power strong emotions. In bharatnatyam, strong feelings are decorously encoded in gesture. Here they burst out and flood the stage.

Modern dance and Indian classical dance is an odd pairing for a program. Nevertheless, it’s always good to see one of Washington’s traditional dance venues open its stage to Indian classical dance, which has an enthusiastic local following. Singh is to be praised for opening Saturday’s program to guest artist Aswathy Vasudevan Nair from India, who proved an excellent exponent of both bharatnatyam and the softer mohiniattam. She is among a number of top Indian artists whom Singh helps bring to this area on a regular basis for events such as the Fall Festival of Indian Arts, which he organizes.