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A medley of classical dances

May 24, 2019

International Dance Day
Photos courtesy: Kalamandalam Calcutta

Most major metropolises in the world - spanning from Havana to Shanghai - go gaga on the International Dance Day holding flagship events with dance performances participated by the young and the old alike, literally on the select streets and city squares. Created by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, the main partner for the performing arts of UNESCO, the event takes place every year on April 29, the anniversary of the birth of Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of modern ballet. Kolkata is no exception to this endearing global frenzy, with select conclaves at Rabindra Sadan and Govindan Kutty Auditoria in particular. Out of the score or so performances at the latter venue witnessed by this critic, here is a select view of the significant performances of the evening.

Nritya Upasana presented Bharatanatyam under Kashmira Samanta. Choreographed originally by the redoubtable guru Saroja Vaidyanathan, it was an attractive group composition by nine dancers, depicting the lovers' union between Purusha and Prakriti and using often the imagery of Radha and Krishna. While the first half was based on competent classical stances, the second half was inexplicably given over to contemporary balletic postures. Kalamandalam presented Mohiniattam under Swarnadeepa next, with six dancers. Performed with live music rendered mellifluously by Sukumar Kutty (with edakka support), the item described a group of Carnatic ragas - like Shankarabaranam, Hamsadhwani and sundry others - rendered in a distorted fashion by the sage Narada, causing acute discomfort to their human embodiments! Narada was made to retrace his singing path and peace was restored.

Nritya Upasana


Malabika Sen Dance Company


Malabika Sen, a senior disciple of guru Thankamani, and her group of five dancers presented Bharatanatyam, with a Kautuvam by Adi Shankaracharya, Mahadeva Shiva Shambho.... In her choreography, geographical motifs stood out, with arcs, diagonals and semicircles predominating, creating pleasant visual patterns. They ended with a stuti from Jayadeva, Jaya Jagadish Hare... Darpani under Arnab Bandyopadhyay, presented a Durga Stuti Jatajuta samayukta... with seven dancers. It was a picturesque composition by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with predominant lasya mode. The group mostly evinced shanta rasa of Bhakta who are to surrender to Mahashakti.

Nipun Nrityalaya under Monojit Saha, presented Bharatanatyam with three dancers. Theirs was first a Ganesha Vandana, complete with the presence of Shiva, Parvati and Kartikeya, rendered in an Ananda Tandava style. This was followed by a tillana, in Hindolam raga. This was a pure dance, yet it evoked Shiva and Pancha Bhuta (five elements) with their many nuances, with Subikash's own striking presence. Sankalpa Nityayan under Subikash Mukherjee presented Odissi too, but this time it was a relatively rare composition by Kumkum Mohanty. With seven dancers, it was a Desh Pallavi and did not seem very different from Kelubabu's style, although the cadence, the rhythm and the tempo showed some remarkable improvisations.

Nipun Nrityalaya

Sankalpa Nityayan


Pushpak under Alokparna Guha presented Kathak. Arguably showcasing the best performance of the evening, this group had eleven dancers - with cymbals in hand and accompanied by live music - and created stirring patterns with their tatkar (footwork). Indeed, their pada sanchalan (movement pattern) gradually built up five different tempos and created the verisimilitude of five melodies. Under the quiet, confident articulation of mnemonics by their leader, the remaining ten dancers executed exquisite laries (garland of footwork tempos), perhaps the best seen for quite some time.

Shravana Vedana
Presented on May 8, Shravana Vedana (the Listening Ache) by Sayani Chakraborty was an innovative experiment in, first, distinguishing and, then, amalgamating Sushira Vadya (lilting melody) of the flute and Ghana Vadya (percussion vibrations) of the damaru where finally discrimination fails and the eternal Nada (sound) manifests itself. Intensifying the relation, shruti (microtones) and laya (tempo) blend to reach the viewer's hearing sense deep within. Conceptualized, with music composed and superbly rendered, by Durba Singha Roychoudhury of Rabindra Bharati University, it was the petite Sayani Chakraborty's foray into her own imaginative choreography that sparkled, to reveal the initial nurturing by Rajdep Banerjee and the later careful grooming by the highly talented Rama Vaidyanathan (of Yamini Krishnamurthy vintage).

Sayani Chakraborty

Sayani began with Ghana Vadya to the energetic beats of Jaya Jaya Hey Shiva..., composed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, set in Ragamalika and tala jhaptaal (with jathis composed by Shankar Narayanaswami). The concoction of life and death by Shiva as he pounds his feet to pulsating rhythms accompanied by the beats of ups and downs; confinement and liberty; birth and death; and the eternal harmony to which the whole world swirls in its ambulatory motion: these were the images and metaphors Sayani sought to create in her vigorous Ananda Tandava. Her palpable exultation sought bliss of cosmic power above the zenith that could neither be created nor destroyed.

Sayani followed up next with a reposeful lasya to the tune of Murali dhuni suni... set in raga Sindhu, tala jhaptaal. The most melodious among the Sushira Vadya, the flute is aptly associated with the pastoral god Krishna and, together, is foremost to carry the imagery of the acts of creation and preservation. The mellifluous sound wafts back to one's ears with enchantment and fills one's soul with peace and piety. Sayani visualized images of Nature enraptured when Krishna blows through his hollow bamboo flute with utter simplicity: the agile fish gets mesmerized and becomes still; the birds stop competitive chirping among themselves; and the tender calves cease to suckle by the captivating melodic wave that blows in, creating bliss in everyone's heart.

The finale was a combinatorial concert of Sushira and Ghana, attempting to interpret the ambiance of the whole universe to which Sayani danced with great Úlan. The Naad sought to resonate in the core of the heart, signifying the heartbeat and the life cycle. The heartbeat symbolized the Ghana or the percussion rhythms represented by the damaru, symbolic in the hands of Shiva. Breathing, on the other hand, was the Sushira or the melody represented by the flute, symbolic in the hands of Krishna. Sayani traipsed to inter-relate Shiva and Krishna in her quest for the unified vibe of the Naad. The enchanting evening concluded with a beautifully sung shloka -- from Sangeeta Damodara by Acharya Subhankar -- followed by a brief Tarana.

Dr. Utpal K Banerjee is a scholar-commentator on performing arts over last four decades. He has authored 23 books on Indian art and culture, and 10 on Tagore studies. He served IGNCA as National Project Director, was a Tagore Research Scholar and is recipient of Padma Shri.

Thank you Narthaki and thank you Sri Utpal Banerjee for providing such a detailed report on activities held in Kolkata. Being featured in Narthaki, the dancers feel blessed and rewarding.
- Somnath G.Kutty (Oct 1, 2020)

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