of four: A tribute in bells
April 25, 2009
"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?"
Bay Area dance
rasikas had a similar experience when four gurus of Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam
danced at the Yuva Bharati organized concert at the Mission City Center
in Santa Clara, CA, on Apr 12, 2009. Presented as a tribute in bells to
Oothukkadu Venkata Subayyar and Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, it was a heady
experience to see stalwarts on stage together for the first piece: Himabindu
Challa, artistic director Nrityananda (Kuchipudi), Jyothi Lakkaraju, artistic
director of Natyalaya (Kuchipudi), Shreelata Suresh artistic director of
Vishwa Shanthi (Bharatanatyam), and Vidhya Subramanian, artistic director
of Lasya (Bharatanatyam).
It would've been nice to have live orchestra for 'Marakatha Mani' by Himabindu. It was an interesting piece that Asha and the Narayanans would've brought so totally to life. Himabindu's use of repeated patterns of nritta served well to punctuate the lyrics. Her finish with the dancing on the plate was of course arresting.
The conclusion at the end of the first half was: The similarities between Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi are only in attire; the former seeks to electrify, the latter, to enchant. If one were to comment on the style of love each dancer has for her art, Vidhya's can be defined as a Veera Shringara, she approaches her dance as an equal, with respectful pride. Shreelatha's is a lover's shringara, she does not even need reciprocation, she's enraptured, enamored. Jyothi's is a mature and masterful Shringara, her path is sure, complete, and transcendental. Himabindu approaches her art with bhakti, willing to be led rather than make a statement.
With such varying styles, the second half was eagerly awaited. True to her bhakti path, Himabindu’s rendition of 'Paripaahi Ganaadhipa' was humble and pure. Her use of the Kuchipudi poses highlighted the poetry well. With 'Paanagendra Shayana,' Shreelata continued her private state of rapture. Keeping a lookout for Padmanabha through the night with her was delightful. She redefines the araimandi in her nritta, and brings out the drama in her poses. Shreelatha brings in an Ashtapadi-esque emotion to every line of poetry, and commands one's attention at all times.
Vidhya's 'Chaliye Kunjan Mo' was finally true to her style, and she drew the audience in line by line. The opening was sensual, never has a woman detangling her hair looked so alluring. Krishna one guesses, doesn't stand a chance from the get go. The lengths she goes to get him into the bower- water-laden hugs, bird/ feather caresses, the don't-mistake-the-hold on his arm!
Jyothi's 'Sri Ramana Vibho' was in a word, powerful. She totally mesmerizes the audience; it's a ticket to the sublime when you watch her. There is an instant resonance in your own heart with each emotion. Her defining take on Putana got one to sympathize with this she-villain for the first time. Nattuvangam by Deepa Mahadevan, Artistic Director of Tiruchitrambalam dance school was powerful.
The finale with Dhanasri Thillana was good. It was thrilling to watch them share the stage, and one didn't know who to look at. The choreography was balanced, but again, not path-breaking and the synchronization slipped in some places. However, one wants to give a long rope to the gurus, it must have been extremely difficult to juggle the schedules and approaches. Thanks though to all of them for seeing it through - the audience appreciates it!
Kudos to Yuva Bharati on this one. Getting 4 gurus together is no mean feat, and whoever made this possible deserves applause. One hopes that we will get similarly lucky again soon. The only change I'd like to see is that instead of a lengthy intro to each artist at the beginning, they could've introduced the orchestra at first, and each dancer before her solo. And of course, if 4 gurus are dancing, then please do get a bigger auditorium next time!
is a dance and drama critic at large in the Bay Area.