top of page

Margam (2017)

Margam, meaning path or way, is the traditional format in which Bharatanatyam has been performed since the early 19th century. Originating in the temples of south India, Bharatanatyam employs love as a central theme, whence the solo performer employs highly stylised gestures and facial expressions to convey longing, loss, devotion, anxiety and a range of other emotions. The dancer takes the audience on a journey, guiding them through rhythmic musical patterns, nuanced expressive mime, complex emotional narratives and scintillating pure dance.

Choreography and performance: Sooraj Subramaniam
Light design: Sooraj Subramaniam
Music composition: traditional music commissioned for recording with vocalist Raghuram, percussionist Lingaraju, veena player Gopal, flautist Mahesh Swamy. Recorded and mastered at Omkar Studios, Bengaluru, India.
Costume design: Sooraj Subramaniam

Content support: Nina Rajarani MBE, Yadav Yadavan, Chitra Sundaram
Supported by: Akademi UK, Nehru Centre (Indian High Commission UK), Harrow Arts Centre UK

Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
With much gratitude to Rahul Acharya, Renjith Babu, Jesse Bannister, Tom Decuyper, Rathimalar Govindarajoo, Christopher Gurusamy, Rajiv Rajamani, Christine Regniers, Parshwanath Upadhye, Vijna Vasudevan and Meera Vijayan.

The puspanjali is an offering of flowers to propitiate lord Ganesha, to grace the stage, and to greet the audience. Recited verse selected from Mahendra Mahapatra’s Abhinaya Chandrika (c. 15th century).

The jatiswaram is an abstract pure dance, in which a garland of sol-fa musical syllables frame rhythmic patterns that expand and contract with fractal beauty.  The music, composed by Chennai-based singer Ashwath Narayanan, is in the raga Kalyanavasantam, and in misra-capu tala, because dance is decidedly more interesting in sevens. 


"entani ne telupudura"

The varnam delves into the drama of unrequited love, where the dancer is in conversation with her lover, the beautiful yet elusive lord Siva, coaxing him to return her affections.  As is conventional, the narrative passages are punctuated by jatis (pure dance sequences) of rare brilliance and verve.  Choreographed by the revered guru Adyar K. Lakshmanan (1933-2014) to a composition of the prodigious Subbarama Dikshithar (1839-1906), this Telugu song is set in raga Khamas and tisra eka tala (three-beat cycle).


"mamava meenakshi"

Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) was a prolific Carnatic musician and genius composer, whose works are an extraordinary delight to dance to. This kirtanam (song of praise) is replete with the imagery of lady Meenakshi — warrior goddess of the city of Madurai, and consort of Siva — offering her praise and adulation. It is delightful to note that this song is set to the raga Varali (‘bee’), and the very word is used to describe the goddess’ luscious tresses. The low rumble of the raga is unsettling, yet it invokes the assuredness and conviction of the sacred feminine.


"aduvum solluval"

The padam is a poetic form, mostly conversational in nature, that offers extraordinary depth of meaning and freedom of interpretation.  Here the 19th-century poet Subbarama Iyer offers a no-nonsense approach to envisioning everyday jealousies.  Less than enthralled by the sudden and dubious rise in fortunes of a ex-friend — previously near-destitute, now living in cosseted comfort — the protagonist vents her frustrations over the grandiloquence emanating from that ‘other woman’.


The tillana is a pure dance form rumoured to have been inspired by the tarana of Hindustani music; it certainly came into fashion in the Carnatic form in the mid-18th century.  Composed by the extraordinary Lalgudi G. Jayaraman (1930-2013), in the lyrical raga Desh and the measured eight-beat cycle of adi tala, the abstract melodic syllables offer cadence and colour to the danced rhythmic patterns. 

bottom of page