Dutch audiences seem to be increasingly interested in smaller independent dance companies whose work brings a breath of fresh air to local theaters. The Amsterdam based Samadhi Dance company is one of, if not the best example of this judging from their award winning fusion dance performances. The company presents works anchored in contemporary ballet with strong influences of traditional Indian dance as well as other dance disciplines. Founded in 2007, the company quickly captured the hearts of Dutch audiences. Their newest performance Hanuman is now touring the Netherlands and will present tour internationally.

Hanuman is a narrative dance performance based on the Indian simian hero of the same name, who is a symbol of strength, courage and devotion. The plot relates the love story between prince Rama and his wife Sita, who is kidnapped by demon Ravana and can only be saved by Hanuman. At first the story seems rather understandable and suited to a dance performance, but it soon becomes clear that this story needs some more explanation to give it more depth. This is done through a voice-over that gives an introduction to each chapter in the story. Although I found this rather helpful, I also found myself wondering whether this could be achieved through body language and pantomime as well, especially as all the dancers seem to have enough expressive qualities to convey the old Indian narrative and make it more engaging for the audience.

The performance opens with an introduction to the story, showing three dancers executing a choreography that consists mainly of very detailed and elegant Indian hand gestures that set the characteristically magical and exotic atmosphere of this show. Interestingly the stage design is very simple, with mainly the lightning and the costumes responsible for the ambiance. The beautiful fabrics, detailed decorations and interesting design of the traditional looking yet functional costumes catch the eye. The performance got of the ground a bit slowly, but it gradually becomes more interesting and engaging when different dance styles blend and the story starts to be told through movement.

The  seven dancers are the main factor for success in this performance. All are strong individuals each with its own qualities. Vraja Sundari Keilman is an amiable and vulnerable Sita with good modern dance skills, but it is her prince Gaura Nataraj Das Furdak who attracts attention with both fascinating traditional dance moves and a striking appearance somewhat reminiscent of a god or a nymph. Yuri Leysner as Hanuman stands out for his strength and Jeffrey Stuut as Ravana shows amazing control and stability. Bryan Mandels in the role of Vanara is not as prominent as others but seems to have a natural fluid quality in his dancing that I would have liked to see more of. The absolute star of the evening was Rasarani Keilman, an amazingly versatile dancer with a very strong stage presence. She performs on pointe and combines the aesthetics of a ballerina, the expressiveness of a modern dancer and the raw and playful edge of a street dancer to create her own style and to give personality to her role of Mandhodari, the daughter of Ravana.

Hanuman is a blend of traditional Indian tales and contemporary elements that grabs people’s imagination and spreads feelgood vibes: a golden combination that defines the identity of Samadhi Dance Company.