Bharatanatyam Festival by Samskruthi, Bangalore
- Dr Sunil Kothari
e-mail: sunilkothari1933@gmail.com
Pics courtesy: Samskruthi

March 13, 2013

A three-day Bharatanatyam festival from March 1 to 3, 2013 showcasing young and senior dancers from Bangalore was mounted at Ambedkar Auditorium, Andhra Bhavan in Delhi by Samskruthi institution run by Satyanarayana Raju.  Usha RK in collaboration with Adilila Foundation and Andhra Bhavan, New Delhi, helped in organizing it.
The festival opened with three young female dancers Medha Dixit, a disciple of Poornima Ashok, Aparna Shastry, a disciple of Radha Sridhar and currently studying further under Satyanarayana Raju, and Aditi Sadashiva, a disciple of Satyanarayana Raju. They began with pushpanjali and followed it with a composition in praise of Lord Shiva describing his Pradosha Tandava. The various sculptural poses of Lord Shiva’s dance were beautifully choreographed.  Various karanas including Vrischika, Dandapada, and Lalatatilakam were executed with finesse.  In Tillana in Valachi raga, a composition of Dwaraki Krishnaswamy, they all performed with perfect synchronization, confirming the high standard of training they have been receiving under their mentor.
           

Medha Dixit, Aditi Sadashiva, Aparna Shastry

Shivaranjani

Shivaranjani, a disciple of Sandhya and Kiran Subramanyam, performed a Varnam of Lalgudi Jayaraman ‘Innum yen manam’ in Charukesi and adi tala, with competence and sound training she has received under her gurus. She elaborated sancharis, enacting stories of Prahlada, Draupadi and Kuchela. The abhinaya was communicative. Her questioning, “Krishna, why do you not care for me, when you come to succor of your devotees?” with many sancharis could have been abbreviated, but the nritta part was scintillating with sollus composed by Kiran, bristling with energy and sound texture. Her interpretations were as taught to her by her guru, and therefore, the suggestion of abbreviating sancharis, she should do in consultation with them.  Javali in Khamaj with lilting ‘ye ra ra ra’ was enacted with appropriate bhavas, enticing the lover, and she succeeded in conveying them in a telling manner. She concluded her performance with Maharajpuram Santhanam’s tillana in Shivaranjani raga. It was quite scintillating with Kiran’s textured mnemonics and cascades of teermanams. Sivaranjani did her guru proud.

All the young dancers acquitted themselves well with their clean lines, perfect tala and laya and restrained abhinaya. One admired them for their dedication. The first evening set the tone for the bonanza one was to be offered in next two evenings.


Madhuchandra, Srinivasa R, Mithun Shyam
On second evening, three male dancers took to the stage, performing with praiseworthy coordination and excellent teamwork. Mithun Shyam, disciple of Padmini Ramachandran, Madhuchandra, disciple of Satyanarayana and Srinivasa R, disciple of Shubha Dhananjayan and now studying under Satyanarayana, danced vividly displaying Bharatanatyam technique with clean lines, diagonals, extension of legs, stretching bodies and all with perfect alignment created a favourable impression. Pushpanjali in Khadyotakanti raga, followed by ‘Mahadeva Shiva Shambho’ in Revati raga, incorporating Natesha Kavutvam was a fine example of well thought out choreography. Each dancer dancing in unison, while completing a stanza, stood in beautiful poses of multi-armed Shiva, with various instruments and sculpturesque poses. They alternated taking different stances and impersonating different roles as per the narrative. Epithets like Marakotisundara, Sarveshwara karunamurti, interweaving story of Markandeya worshipping Lord Shiva, and Yamaraja arriving throwing noose to take him away, Markandeya clinging to Shivalinga, and Shiva protecting him etc., were suggested dramatically. In one stance the three stood in such a manner that it looked like Shiva with three faces.

Kanakadasa’s popular Devarnama ‘Bagilanu teredu’ in which the devotee begs Lord at Udupi to give him darshan was performed by three of them taking various roles. A Brahmin asking the devotee being of low caste not to come near the temple, asking him did he have sacred thread and turning him away; devotee’s questioning Krishna coming to help of Prahlada, Gajendra and Draupadi and not having mercy upon him, for which he is rewarded by a miracle taking place. When the priest is offering puja and outside Kanakadasa is trying to have a glimpse of the Lord, the idol of Krishna turns to utter surprise of the priest, and moves in direction of a window from where Kanakadasa can have the glimpse of divine beauty. The three dancers enacted it in an interesting manner which left an indelible impression.

Tillana of Balamuralikrishna in Brindabani saw the trio in great form. The elegance of their outstretched diagonal arms, seamless transition of various postures, Venudhari, Muralimadhuri, clean movements with expanse of Bharatanatyam form, were rich in visuals. Seasoned violinist Chakrapani from Delhi gave excellent support to the accompanists from Bangalore, whose accompaniment as usual added extra dimension to the performance.


Poornima Ashok
Poornima Ashok, former disciple of Radha Sridhar, and later on for more than two decades studying under Dhananjayans, in the second half presented what Dhananjayans prefer to call Nrityopaharam for their compositions. She is a well known senior dancer of Bangalore. She presented Papanasam Sivan’s Varnam in Nattakuranji raga and adi tala in praise of Shiva in her own choreography. With attractive stage presence and good command over technique, in nritta she included movements similar to attributes of Shiva playing a damaru, crescent moon on jata, matted locks, flowing Ganga, wearing Vyghracharma, serpents as ornaments and so on, using poses in nritta as seen in sculpture and attempted a unity of narrative of Shiva both in pure dance and abhinaya. That was quite refreshing. The nayika speaks of her state first as Lord’s devotee, then an admirer and finally his lover. She begs of him to give glimpse of his beautiful form with whom she desires to unite. Seeing him in a procession, describing his dance, Poornima displayed poise, balance and dignity. Describing his dance in Chidambaram using sollus while playing damaru, were interestingly interwoven. A mature presentation. In Swati Tirunal’s composition Sahasamula, Poornima expressed the bashfulness, the fright of mugdha nayika at the lover’s advances at love play, requesting him to have patience till she grows up. Nayaka pulling sari, and enticing nayika in various ways gave scope to Poornima to register various expressions of annoyance, confusion, enjoying secretly the attempts of the nayaka, all depicted with ease.

Oothakadu composition ‘Vishamakara Kannan’ was treated by her in a folk style, dancing with abundance and lilting melody. It was an interesting experiment, combining classical and folk elements. Dealing with Krishna’s pranks in various ways, how Krishna, if a gopi went to complain to Yashoda, she only received a rebuff, if she called him a thief, he would swear and curse you and your grandmother! His child like beauty attracts a gopi who begs him to give a kiss on her cheek. Poornima danced in an engaging manner. There were references to Krishna’s pranks of stealing clothes of gopi when bathing and then demanding her to ask his forgiveness,  pray to him and so on. Poornima was in her element dancing joyously. She concluded her recital with a tillana in Behag raga, a composition by Balamurali Krishna in praise of Tyagaraja.  It had its customary appeal both in music and nritta.  The programme ended with Mangalam.

The third evening with Satyanarayana Raju, Subhashini Vasanth and Soundarya Srivatsa was the highlight of the three day festival. All mature dancers, known for their thorough training and command over technique, revealing the beauty of Bharatanatyam, performing together, at times solo, and then in a group left a lasting impression. The focus was as Usha RK explained, on Tyagaraja’s composition, exploring the sahitya and its interpretation through dance. The three of them performing Pushpanjali covered the stage artistically creating visual patterns, alignments, straight clean lines, and bringing to the fore the architectonic splendor of the form. Dressed in off white and beige colour, they enhanced the harmony in aharya. Tyagarajaswami tum guruvaram dharayami me manasi satatam, struck the chords with devotional mood, which permeated throughout the evening.

In a solo, Soundarya Srivatsa, wife of the vocalist Srivatsa, whom I had seen in a special evening of Varnam programme in Bangalore few months ago, performed a composition of Tyagaraja in which a reference is made to Raja Sarfoji who sends for him to sing in his court and offers wealth for doing so, which Tyagaraja declines as he only wishes to sing for Lord Rama and not for the pleasure of the king. With humility and moving expressions, Soundarya performed it feelingly.


Satyanarayana Raju, Subhashini Vasanth, Soundarya Srivatsa
Tyagaraja’s devotional composition dwelling upon Rama also has a variety of variation, explained Usha RK. Tyagaraja also extolled the beauty of Shankara, who is embodiment of Naad, sound. In Chittaranjani raga and adi tala, three of them performed in excellent choreographic design, each dancer taking stances in which ardhachandra, half crescent moon, playing of damaru, Ganga’s flowing from Jata, found felicitous expression. The Telugu poetry describing the lakshana of raga Satyojata panchamvaktra sa re ga ma pa dha ni shabda swara  and so on evoked the form of abstract raga.

An interesting often heard in a concert composition in Kamboji raga performed by Satyanarayana dealt with Rama being addressed as one whose fame rested on Janaki. It was she who even when she knew and could have turned Ravana into ashes by a mere look at him when she was kept captive in Ashokvana, did not do so and saw that you fight with him and vanquish and win fame. An incarnation of Lakshmi is Janaki to whom O Rama you owe your fame. Satya  enacted with sancharis in which Sita playing with her friends with a ball comes  across Lord Shiva’s bow and playfully lifts it, Rama later on lifts it and marries Sita, goes to forest with Rama like a shadow, watches golden deer and begs Rama to bring it, Rama goes after it, Maricha screams for help and Lakshmana after drawing Lakshmanarekha leaves Sita, Ravana comes in disguise as a mendicant and kidnaps Sita. Satya enacted various characters with dexterity and appropriate expressions, dignity for Rama, as Sita with humility showing feminine lajja, shy look, ferocious Ravana and so on. With a charming visage registering bhavas in a trice, Satya’s personality reveals his innate humility. For stanzas like Navnitachora, Nandakishora, Naravir Arjunamitra, he enacted it all competently and suggestively showing Arjuna Viswarupa and asking him to fight, and even when Prahlada only repeated Narayana, Srimannarayana, how as Narasimha he vanquished Hiranyakashipu and saved Prahlada. These resonances were woven in choreography enhancing the beauty of the text.

The piece de resistance was Pancharatnakriti ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu,’ lyrically the most beautiful composition, as a shared tradition enjoyed by all was performed in an imaginative choreography by all three dancers. It covers deeply moving sentiments with exquisite poetry. The mere recitation of Rama’s name elevates one, devotees unreservedly sing his praise. Tyagaraja says to meditate on holy name of Rama. Ramakathamrita sarthakamulu, in Sri raga, with singing by Srivatsa had an elevating effect. The dancers took poses of Sri Rama, Sita and a devotee at their feet. In one sequence, Satya played the role of old woman Shabari collecting fruits to offer Rama and when he accepted them, earlier tested by her, she was extremely happy. Satya has won universal appreciation for this enactment. The presentation was so moving. References to Sitaswayamvara, Rama Ravana battle enacted suggestively, and returning to refrain ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’ soaked one and all into an ennobling feeling of devotion. So powerful was their presentation, replete with bhakti and magical music by Srivatsa, nattuvangam by Shakuntala and excellent playing on mridangam by Lingaraj further enhanced by violin by Chakrapani.

The three day event was remarkable for the high standard of Bharatanatyam by Bangalore’s best dancers along with the new generation in successive evenings, not often seen in Delhi. It helped connoisseurs to assess the horizontal growth of Bharatanatyam form in Bangalore where without making much noise, these artistes perform. There is a certain dignity in their approach and practice which is extremely touching and refreshing. May their tribe increase.


Felicitation to Dr. Sunil Kothari

After felicitation, Prathibha Prahlad danced extempore

On behalf of Samskruthi institution, Usha RK and Satyanarayana Raju honoured Bharatanatyam exponent Prathibha Prahlad originally from Bangalore, now settled in Delhi for her rendering yeoman service to the filed of dance and extending complete support to Bangalore dancers, bringing them often to Delhi and her other excellent services of holding International Art Festival and several other achievements. They also honoured me as a dance scholar, historian, author and critic for my long service to dance. Both Prathibha and I were overwhelmed at their gesture and felt grateful to them for their appreciation of our work.
 
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.



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