- Ananda Shankar Jayant, Hyderabad
December 10, 2009
Lakshmi Viswanathan, a disciple of Kanchipuram Ellappa Pillai, performed her arangetram in 1953. She has received training in Carnatic music and learnt Padams from T Mukta. She learnt Kuchipudi from Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. Lakshmi's abhinaya has been described as visual music. She is a choreographer, teacher and writer on dance and culture. Besides writing the book 'Bharatanatyam - the Tamil Heritage,' she has also directed a documentary 'Poetry of Dance.' Her book 'Women of Pride-The Devadasi Heritage' released on Dec 12, 2008 is about the Devadasi tradition of dance in the temples of Tamil Nadu.
She was the artistic director of the first Mamallapuram Dance Festival in 1991 and was twice elected as vice-president of the Music Academy. A recipient of the Nritya Choodamani, Lakshmi Viswanathan has been convenor of the Natya Kala Conference for two years.
Is there any place at all for solo dancing any more?
There is place for solo dancing. The dancer who chooses her repertoire carefully and does each number with variety and tempo in mind can hold her audience.
With audiences making a beeline to the door after a varnam, how do we retain interest in padams?
I do not see any current dancers dancing any padams worth mentioning. So where is the question of any worry that audiences don't sit and watch after the varanam. It is the extra long varnams with no worthy merit in content that probably drives audiences away. Crisp varnams in tempos which do not drag and aim to show all that a dancer can show in mythology, should be edited so that the varnam itself is restored to its original glory as a centre piece without making it a burden on lay viewers.
Where do we draw the line for shringara on stage? Must we not take into context the audience and place before choosing our repertoire? (Eg; doing highly erotic padams, for a young audience)
For children, don't dance erotic padams! For adults, include sensuous padams, treat the subject with the subtleties available in plenty in the histrionic and technical aspects of classical dance - subtlety is the key word....not exaggeration either in ideas, content or expression. Sringara depicts love.... not lust.
Who is your fave author? What are you now reading?
I am reading Rushdie - a slow read of a master craftsman. I have no favourites as I don't indulge in fiction reading. For me, Neelakanta Shastri on the Cholas or Balasubramaniam in Tamil on the Nayaks is more exciting.