Madhyama Segal’s Odissi recital
- Dr.Sunil Kothari
e-mail: sunilkothari1933@gmail.com
Photo: Pallavi Odissi Dance Academy

August 18, 2014

Dedicated to the memory of Late Zohra Segal, India International Centre (IIC) and Pallavi Odissi Nritya Sangeet Vidyalaya run by Zohra Segal’s daughter Kiran Segal, presented  Madhyama Segal, great granddaughter of Zohra Segal in a brief Odissi recital, conducted by Kiran Segal.

Madhyama is daughter of Sujata, daughter of Kiran. She is trained by Kiran for past thirteen years and is a regular performer in most of Kiran’s group choreographies. Madhyama has performed in Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Rabindra Pranati Festival, the Khajuraho dance festival, the Konark dance Festival, and abroad under the aegis of ICCR’s a tribute to Africa and has travelled to China and Singapore. She has accompanied Kiran for giving several lecture demonstrations and seems to have gained enough professional experience, but this seemed to be her first solo performance. Though she has performed in Kiran’s group choreographies, one noticed her individual talent in her solo recital under review.

Kiran has studied Odissi under Guru Mayadhar Raut. Therefore Madhyama’s Odissi has clear impress of Mayadhar Raut’s style. Madhyama has a winning stage presence. She looks like a mugdha nayika and impersonates that role to the hilt when enacting abhinaya to Banamali’s evergreen song: ‘I go to Yamuna river to fetch water and who else but the 'natakhat' Krishna stops me on the way. I plead with him to let me go. I threaten him that I shall call all my friends and expose his deeds. But he is shameless and harasses me. I promise to give him the jewel of my crown ornament, but he does not relent. Does he not know that my mother-in-law and sister-in-law keep a watch on me?’ When the young gopi sheds tears, Krishna relents and lets her go, playing the divine flute.

Madhyama’s abhinaya to this Odiya song was charming and she performed it with flair, registering expressions of a mugdha nayika. One at once identified with her plight when Krishna harasses her. I think it is Madhyama’s sweet stage presence and naiveté which are very appealing. She alternated the roles of gopi and Krishna successfully.

She began her recital with a stuti, prayer in praise of Lord Shiva, with his ‘divya kundala’, and majestic form. The epithets of the Lord are numerous and they come alive in Mayadhar’s style. Though all the numbers have been choreographed by Kiran, the essential Odissi style as evolved by Guru Mayadhar Raut stood out. Following the stuti, Madhyama performed Bhumi Pranam maintaining the basic stances and executing movements with ease. The chauka and tribhanga were held well and distinct Odissi form was revealed.

Balakrishna Das’s Mishra Sankarabharanam pallavi saw her in good form. The circular movements covering the stage were interesting. The poses of darpani and other sculptural images were interwoven. This pallavi is different from the most popular Sankarabharanam pallavi as composed by Bhubaneswar Mishra and choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

Madhyama concluded the recital with Moksha. It had an old world charm. With ‘bhasa’ movements, waving arms like swimming, moving from one point to another and other movements in the construct of Moksha were quite interesting. These compositions when Odissi was getting into shape for a solo performance, reminded me of earlier times. Madhyama incorporated shloka of ‘Sarve Janaha sukhino bhavantu’ and ‘Om Shanti.’

Prafulla Mangaraj on mardala, vocalist Prashant Behra, flautist Dhiraj Pandey and Gopinath Swain on violin gave Madhyama good support. Kiran played ginni, cymbals. Mr. Suresh Goel, former Director General of ICCR, did the honours. We then learnt that Madhyama was suffering from viral fever, but did not want to cancel the programme. That explained why the recital was so brief. We all appreciated that Madhyama, as a professional dancer hailing as she does from none else than the legendary Zohra Segal’s lineage, insisted on performing in spite of high fever.

All the musicians and Kiran were offered garlands but Madhyama did not appear to take the curtain call. Therefore, I asked Kiran to call her on stage. The audience gave her a standing ovation. She deserved it. We would like to see her more often in solo performances.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. He is honored by the President of India with Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Senior Critic Award from Dance Critics Association, NYC. He is a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 12 years.