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Vriddhi - Rise Extraordinaire: Performances by young dancers
- Dr. Sunil Kothari

November 6, 2012

The Kuchipudi Dance Academy, New Delhi, under the initiative of Vedabrata Rao, son of celebrated dancing couple Guru Jaya Rama Rao and Vanashree Rama Rao, presented three young dancers from different styles on one platform, followed by that amazing group of physically challenged artists of Ability Unlimited of Guru Dr. Syed Sallauddin Pasha on 25th October 2012, at the packed Kamani Audience in the presence of a young crowd.

Vedabrata, 20, believes that the generation next must get involved with the classical arts and young performers. In a series titled 'Vriddhi - rise extraordinaire,' the Kuchipudi Dance Academy proposes to provide a platform to young dancers and in another welcome concept, of presentation of young musicians in a classical Carnatic and Hindustani music concert.

Vedabrata feels it is high time that senior artistes encourage young dancers, bringing them to the mainstream. On this occasion, the Academy invited a galaxy of senior performing artistes, who attended the performances from beginning to the end. When one saw the guests of honour on the stage to light the ceremonial lamp, one was impressed. All are Padma awardees and also honoured by Sangeet Natak Akademi. Recently, Manipuri Guru R.K. Singhajit Singh was elected as a Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. He with his dancer wife Charu Sija Mathur, Saroja Vaidyanathan and Geeta Chandran (Bharatanatyam), Geetanjali Lal and Shovana Narayan (Kathak), Bharati Shivaji (Mohiniattam), Madhavi Mudgal and Ranjana Gauhar (Odissi), Wasifuddin Dagar (Dhrupad) and patron Nirmal Kumar, Police Commissioner, came on the stage and the audience applauded heartily. To perform before such stalwarts is a rare opportunity. Their very presence spoke volumes for their lifelong devotion and relentless practice and faith in the classical arts they have nurtured all these years. The young generation in the audience was also duly impressed by their dignified presence.

The dancers were Sharanya Chandran, daughter of Geeta and Rajiv Chandran (Bharatanatyam), T. Reddi Lakshmi, a disciple of Jaya Rama Rao and Vanashree Rao (Kuchipudi) and Vidha Lal (Kathak), daughter-in-law and disciple of Geetanjali Lal. Each one of them presented two items in their specialization for twenty minutes, displaying the mastery they have achieved in their respective disciplines. It was indeed refreshing to watch them with their natural enthusiasm and youthful presentation. The generation next could easily relate to them.

Besides her expertise in Bharatanatyam, Sharanya has a brilliant professional career. With a Masters degree from School of Economics, London, she has gained considerable experience in public administration in the government departments. Dance is in her blood. Trained by her mother, she has been making a name in the field and has won critical praise from the knowledgeable crowd. She has performed in Geeta Chandran's choreographic works, assisting her in choreography and also giving solo performances. As a matter of fact, she has been singularly fortunate to have an atmosphere at home where dance is a way of life.

She opened with the familiar Shiva Tandava piece "Natanam Adinar" in Vasanta raga, which describes the dance of Shiva, the Tandava he performed at the Golden Hall of Chidambaram. When he performed, even the earth shook resting on Shesha naga, the eight directions were charged with his energetic performance, the gods played various instruments, and the assembly of gods watched his dance with wonder. With her tall and commanding frame and stage presence, Sharanya impersonated Lord Shiva with his decoration of serpents, used the hastas suggesting serpents adorning the Lord and swung her foot in either direction, creating images of vigorous dancing. Delineating the various attributes of the Lord, his sculpturesque representation as seen in innumerable images, the hands holding the damaru (drum) and fire and with the energy permeating her entire frame, Sharanya captivated the audience.

In Yaman Kalyani tillana, she used her long arms striking diagonal lines, creating geometrical patterns and the dynamic images displayed her command over nritta. She conveyed the joyous mood by covering the space on the stage with scintillating movements. Tillana has a beautiful structure. Along with the lilting, melodious music and perfect alignments of various dance units, Sharanya performed with Úlan. She succeeded in conveying the grandeur of the Bharatanatyam form.

Sharanya Chandran

T. Reddi Lakshmi

In her Kuchipudi exposition, T. Reddi Lakshmi revealed the typical quicksilver quality of the Kuchipudi form. In Vani Pondu Chalu Vardhane, as a khandita nayika admonishing the truant lover, Lakshmi with mukhajabhinaya (facial expressions) and glances conveyed the nayika's anger, sarcasm, feelings of hurt for the nayaka's infidelity. The nayaka's dalliance with another woman and resultant pain, anguish, jealousy were conveyed in a remarkable manner. However, Lakshmi would do well to bring a certain restraint and suggestive sarcasm to let the nayaka understand that it is not easy to pacify the nayika.

Guru Jaya Rama Rao choreographed the only one from Krishna Leela Tarangini devoted to Shiva, specially to draw attention to this unusual Tarangam. It is de rigueur to perform Tarangam in a Kuchipudi recital. Balancing herself on the edges of a brass plate, a dancer performs with precision and concentration, which invariably results in applause, indicative of the audience's appreciation of the intricate dancing on a brass plate, often entering into a repartee with the percussionist, executing tala patterns. Lakshmi acquitted herself well dancing with verve and confidence. She did her gurus proud.

Vidha Lal has won fame as a performer making 103 chakkars (pirouettes) in one minute for the Guinness Book of Records on television. The moment Mridu Tripathi, the ace compere announced about Vidha Lal, the young in the crowd applauded. Trained by Geetanjali Lal, Vidha displayed the progress she has made during the past few years as a solo dancer and also as a choreographer. Young, vivacious and energetic, Vidha also selected a theme in praise of Hari and Hara, Krishna and Shiva. It is an interesting composition by the legendary musician and poet Baiju Bavara in which the attributes of both the manifestations of the gods are described, giving a dancer scope to express the episodes, the attributes imaginatively. Bansidhar, holding a flute, Pinkadhar, a bow, Gangadhar, holding Ganga in his matted locks, Giridhar, lifting mount Govardhan, Chandramaulidhar, with adornment of crescent moon, Sudhadhar, cool as the moon, Vishadhar, with blue neck as Nilakantha, Lord Shiva drank halahal poison and Parvati stopped him, whereby his neck turned blue, Chakradhar, Krishna holding a disc. The poet goes on further describing Lord Shiva as the better half of Uma, and Krishna as of Rama, Shiva wearing skin of tiger, Krishna pitambar (yellow garment), and so on. Creating images of each god, Vidha moved across the stage with great ease and sculpted the space with iconic images. Each epithet was clearly audible and enjoyable in terms of visual representation in the Kathak idiom. Her own imaginative choreography was enhanced with suggestive angikabhinaya.

In Tarana in Darbari, composed by Geetanjali Lal and choreographed by Vidha, she exploited her signature chakkars with great felicity. Incorporating nritta and arresting movements, Vidha covered the space taking several circles with flaring skirt moving in consonance with speed, bringing down the house. Adorning nritta with movements of wrists, gracefully turning arms around neck, using palta while dancing gat nikas, moving gracefully with rukhsar ki gat, evoking a beautiful maiden's youthful image and reverting in a trice to tatkar, the footwork, Vidha danced like a thunderbolt and also gave a feel of a silken cloth flying in a breeze! She has achieved this stage of mastery over the idiom and it also spoke volumes for her talent. The audience gave her a hearty applause.

Vidha Lal

Vedabrata Rao

The intention as Vedabrata announced in his brief speech at the beginning was achieved with great success as all the three dancers made the evening pulsating and lively. The program concluded with Ability Unlimted Foundation's Guru Dr. Syed Sallauddin Pasha's dancers for whom, as it was announced "disability is just a word." The amazing way the artistes moved the wheelchairs, creating evocative mood with Sufi poems is to be seen to be believed. They have won the hearts of audiences world over. One salutes them for their will power to conquer their disabilities and turn them into a powerful message of human endeavour.

Hearty congratulations to Guru Jaya Rama Rao, Vanashree Rama Rao and Vedabrata for such a laudable initiative. The event was supported by Indian Council for Cultural relations (ICCR), Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, and Takshila.

Dr. Sunil Kothari
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, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 11 years.

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