While it is heartening that a classical dance program can attract an overflowing audience, especially considering that it is a horrendous task for a dancer to garner even a respectable viewership, it is worth mulling over how and why "Drishti" has been able to catch such crowds. One obvious reason is that it packs in a variety of dancers and dances in just an evening's program, each one of them attracting his or her own fans. Perhaps good publicity too has as much a role to play.
The festival was a mix of popular names and a younger crop of dancers, where classicism was not beyond suspect and contemporaniety its thrust. Padmini Upadhya, Parshwanath Upadhye and Aishwarya Nityananda presented the inaugural Pushpanjali, Ganesha stuti "Gajananayutham" (Chakravakha), and "Eesham Sarvesham" (Ragamalika), a Shivanama stotra, where the nritta fell into place. The rapport among the dancers, even in the ensuing numbers, was one of the highlights of the show. The vocal of Manasi Prasad was pleasing and the dance composition of Anuradha Vikranth, crisp.
Sathyanarayana Raju was the lone dancer to present a solo from the traditional margam. His varnam, "Devadideva Nataraja" (Shanmukhapriya) was marked by neat nritta. He dealt with the elongated korvais with practised ease. A more focused drishti, consistent aramandi, and the opening up of his abhinaya will give a sharper edge to his presentation. When Guru Narmada wielded the cymbals, it was a rare outing both for her and the audience. Srivatsa (vocal), Gurumurthy (mridangam), and Mahesh (flute) were the accompanists.
"Rhythms," a light filler - one calls it so because of its unconventionality, brief duration and pace - was the number by the "Drishti trio" of Anuradha, Shama and Sanjay Shantaram. It was a toe-tapping number, its appeal lying both in its beat and its movements, drawing as it did heavily on folk and free style. Here again the rapport among the three conveyed itself as a buoyant piece to the audience. The dance composition by the protagonists was a fluid amalgamation of the styles, the rhythm pads by Prashanth deserving special mention for the array of background instrument effects it produced.
The festival threw up a pertinent question: Is the solo Bharatanatyam recital, as we know it, on its way out? Also, are group features and duets a substitute for it?
Our classical arts, be it music or dance, are essentially solo forms. It is as much the responsibility of a dancer to woo the audience as a soloist (which requires going deeper into the technicalities), as it is for an audience to increase its level of awareness of the art. Here again, the dancer has a role to play.
Inability to carry conviction with the knowledgeable is perhaps one reason for dancers resorting to group features, which is less demanding in more ways than one. If duets and group features become more the order of the day, then it ceases to be Bharatanatyam, and becomes another form.
can perhaps be a happy balance between the solo form and group features,
the latter fulfilling the creative urge of an artiste, while being able
to offer something different to the audience. After all, creativity is
of essence for any art to survive and thrive. It is through continued experimentation
that an art form assumes vibrancy.
Jyothi Raghuram is a journalist by profession, having worked in the print media in major newspapers and agencies such as "The Hindu" and PTI for about two decades.