An evening of classical dance which began with a piece reflecting the cyclical concept of Indian time ended up demonstrating its elasticity.
Starting at 8pm, a double bill of two solo performances nominally timed at 40 and 45 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval, somehow added up to a finishing time of 10.45pm. This meant the latter stages of Nahid Siddiqui's contribution were accompanied by the distracting sight of many audience members slipping out of the exits - perhaps revealing a conflict between timeless Indian culture and the more immediate demands of Birmingham's public transport schedules.
It seemed a pity that the final impression was of having had too much of a good thing, given that Saddiqi, now based in Pakistan, was returning to the city in which she lived, and served with distinction, for almost 20 years.
She is universally recognised as one of the greatest living exponents of Kathak, and her elegant mastery was apparent in the slightest gesture of arms and fingers. And indeed the gestures were slight, or at least for the most part relatively limited, in a strongly-focused performance notable for the empathy between dancer and a rich-sounding, six-strong musical ensemble, which bordered at times on the trance-like.
In the final section, as the music focused on an endlessly-repeated chiming figure on the sitar, there seemed no obvious reason why the performance would not simply continue all night, despite several false endings.
Siddiqui is well remembered for many sold-out performances at Mac. The expansion to the much larger Town Hall was challenging but not entirely unsuccessful. While a greater sense of intimacy would obviously have been welcome, it is remarkable how effectively a single dancer can command a space more associated with large choirs and orchestras.
This was immediately apparent in the earlier performance by Malavika Sarukkai, from India. Appearing with a different musical quartet, her trilogy of time-related pieces used the classical repertoire of Bharata Natyam to express extremely diverse feelings - notably in the third piece, an evocation of the riverside in Benares, where vignettes ranged from lovers meeting at sunset to a mother mourning her dead son.
The unchanging flow of the Ganges ultimately put such highs and lows of human experience (or indeed, the need to catch the last bus) into perspective.