Looking at India's dances from the West, it is easier to discern the forest than the trees.
If one is used to ballet, the essential classicism of Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi and Orissi is obvious. They are weighed and balanced, stylized and develop ways of moving.
To see the differences between the three types it helped to have Indrani's verbal explanation. Her lecture demonstration Sunday afternoon in Baird Hall at the Natural History Museum was full of clarity and wit.
Her evening concert showed her to be a gently seductive performer in contrast to such other practitioners as the passionate Rhita Devi or the incisive Balasaraswati.
Whether in the subtle spatial and musical symmetries of Bharata Natvam, the drama of Kuchipudi or the rococo lyricism of Orissi, the vivacity of Indrani's dancing is that of the fingers and face. Her torso tends to be sluggish, and even the footwork -- which produces intricate movement as well as the music of the ankle bells -- seemed on occasion to have a slight retard.
For this viewer her finest moments were, literally, poetry. When she stood at the microphone, demonstrating and simultaneously translating into fine English the mimetic gestures and expressions which told of Lord Krishna's loves or the Frog Princess' fierce suitor, Indrani forged a style of recitation which our performance authors might well envy.