Budding Dancers’ Festival: A celebration
- Dr. SD Desai 
e-mail: sureshmrudula@yahoo.co.in

April 17, 2013

Dancers and dance lovers look forward to Celebrating the World of Dance - Mallika Sarabhai’s brain child - at Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad now and when the third 7-day National Dance Festival of 21 solos and 3 duets came this year (April 5 to 11) they packed Natarani every day. Murali Nair spent weeks on selecting the young dancers from across the country and remained on his toes all seven days to make them comfortable on and off the stage.

Sinam Basu Singh (Manipuri) with his lithe movement as Kamdeva had invisible flowers spring up all around and the arrows he shot were seen and felt by the mugdha young viewers who were one with the ambience created. His lasya in Abhisar had delicate grace and a ten-minute Dashavataar was dainty. Vyjayanthi Kashi’s Kuchipudi disciple Vidya (Bangalore) entered elegantly and did a freshening invocatory Nandi covering the whole stage, followed by a brief expressive piece Bhamakalapam and Tarangam.

 Beginning with Ganesha Stuti, Mohiniattam dancer Akhila Gopinath (Thiruvananthapuram),  trained by T.P. Vasudevan, had such identification with the mood of the Ramarasa bhajan that expressiveness came across more strikingly than in the erotic Dheera sameere Yamuna teere

On the second day, Vijna and Renjith Babu’s Bharatanatyam duets, Pooja’s Kathak and Swapna’s Mohiniattam, all deserved the rousing appreciation they received. Apart from the invocatory and nritta items, the stories they depicted with exhilarating felicity went very well with the viewers, many of them dancers. The brilliant expressiveness of Vijna and Renjith (Chennai) turned their duet on Radha-Krishna theme to something of a visual samvad-kavya through pleasing mirror images of mudras and movement and an engaging complementary lyrical reciprocity. In the Chopaat katha (tale) as part of Bindadin Maharaj’s Bhajan, Rajashri Shirke and Arjun Mishra’s disciple Pooja Pant (Mumbai) with dignity grew precocious in her varying moods of shrewdness, exasperation and triumph in the Kaurav Sabha.

Grace and promise
With a pleasing combination of a remarkable stage presence, a graceful adherence to Mohiniattam basics, supple flowing abandon, inspiring indigenous music by Kavalam Panikkar and an allegorical tale of Kubja, Swapna Rajendrakumar (Bangalore), trained by guru Sunanda Nair, Kanak Rele’s disciple, gave glimpses of her potential to outgrow mere physicality in dance.

Deepa Sashindran (Bangalore), ‘Shankarabharanam’ fame Manju Barggavee and Usha Datar’s disciple, chose on the third day in her Kuchipudi performance to give a vivid visual interpretation of the descriptive verses in Shri Krishna Leela Tarangini, following a Shiva Stuti. Beginning with Neela meghavarna shareera on the pleasing traits of Krishna and culminating in a brass plate dance, it was an engaging performance by the talented dancer.

Odissi dancers Mitali and Pankaj (Bhubaneswar) looked just kids when they entered the stage but with sculpturesque poses conjured up in Konarak Kanti with brisk joyous movement and delightfully flowing playful action in Madhurashtakam rendered with delectable music, they grew into very promising expressive performers. Art has such a magic touch!

An ebullient Bharatanatyam dancer with noteworthy versatility, Murugashankari (Chennai) joyfully invoked Lord Ganesha and went on to do a brilliant padam Shankara shri giri, a Swati Tirunal Kriti in which, steadily holding body in varying connotative positions and movement, she depicted eminent attributes of Lord Shiva, who with his third eye can burn even Kamadeva to ashes.

The fourth day saw Bayanacharya Bora’s disciple and researcher Anwesa Mahanta (Guwahati) quite competently introducing Sattriya dance, which the young Ahmedabad was watching live for the first time. Her performances on Lord Vishnu and Satyabhama unfolded Sattriya’s folk and classical aspects on the spiritual vocal rendering in accompaniment of percussion rhythm and flute and with relatively austere aharya.

Slide show

From shringar to vatsalya
With the advantage of a dignified bearing and height and a relaxed pace that distinguished her Dashavatara, a third at the festival, in dasa-raaga-maalika, Hyderabad-based Katyayani Thota’s visual enunciation of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, from Matsya to Venkateshwara in Kuchipudi style, became enchanting. The Tillana that followed was as delightful.

Bhakti Dani, a Kadamb disciple, gave a good nritta performance in Kathak, embellished with bol,  tukras, including chakkars and rhythmic footwork, followed by Chaturang with a bit of simple abhinaya of the nayika engaged in coiffeur and shringaara under the guidance of Vaishali Trivedi. She demonstrated in her maiden solo performance to live music, a strong potential for sustained elegance and najhakat.

Beginning on a subdued note with the invocatory Shiva Stotra without make-up and a colourful costume, Saurav Roy (Howrah) on the fifth day in thaat developed a rapport with the audience that applauded his being in sync with rhythmic pace and coming on sam with precision. His approximation to Yashoda’s vatsalya in Shri Krishna Bala-maadhuri on Bindadin lines, followed by Tritaal, was particularly noteworthy.

A petite Meera Srinarayanan (Guruvayur) with her sparkling invocation to Parashakti Saraswati and a refreshingly uncommon visual interpretation of Tulsidas’s Shri Rama Chandra Krupalu, emerged as a precociously talented, growing Mohiniattam dancer. Even as Kaushalya gets ready to receive Ram returning from his 14-year vanavaas, she slips into the memory of him when he was as many years younger. The teenage performer’s identification with Kaushalya’s vatsalya was so complete she could not hold back tears!

Guru Raj (Bangalore) was Vyjayanti Kashi’s second Kuchipudi disciple at the festival. His initial item was Poorvaranga Vidhi, which was refreshing with a ritualistic purification of performance space with water, flowers, leaves and incense to air-piercing Vedic chants. The well-trained dancer then turned to a miniature Ramayana Shabda and Sandhya Tandav, to which the local viewers are not commonly exposed.

Variegated  portraits
The sixth day opened with a graceful Durga Stuti in Odissi by Dhara Gandhi, competently groomed by Kelucharan Mohapatra’s disciple Daksha Mashruwala. That footwork, movement, mudras and facial expression in tune with the rhythm and words equally contribute to dance even in a narrative was demonstrated by her in Jayadeva’s sixth ashtapadi Sakhi he kesi madana. The neatness of her flowing lines in a delectably slow-paced performance kept conjuring up portraits that linger in memory.

How appropriate the physical attributes of a dancer Bharat Muni has described are, coupled with controlled abhinaya, was reaffirmed by the next dancer Saathvika (Chennai), Anitha Guha’s worthy Bharatanatyam disciple. In her Thumaka chalata Rama Chandra, she was as much at ease with the vatsalya bhava as with Ram’s endearing childlike action and facial expression. Watching her Tillana was a delight.

Paushali Chatterji’s shishya Debomita gave an opportunity to see makhkhan-chori and uttama nayika Radha in her Manipuri dance. In the lasya variety, she portrayed Radha longing for Krishna in the forest where she lays a bed with flowers, turning a vipralambh nayika and then, a dignified young woman that she is, she becomes a khandita nayika and turns a cold shoulder to the straying lover. Her cholam combining elements of tarana and tillana was interesting.

Sahana Bharadwaj’s simple movement, strides and clear mukhabhinaya with elaborate aharya to the maidani singing voice in the Poorvarang on the concluding day at once established the folk elements of Yakshagana. They were further enhanced with her Krishna saying he would disprove he stole the Kaustubh Mani. With a full night needed for the performance reduced to twenty minutes and the samvaad to be carried out by a single player, the performance gave glimpses of Yakshagana appeal.

With strict adherence to tradition, Maheshwari Nagarajan’s Bharatanatyam disciple Saranya Rao outgrew her age and size in vividly narrating the Purana tale of Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatar, striding from heaven to earth, earth to the netherworld and in the third step putting his foot on the head Mahabali offered and of Gajendra Moksha, followed by Tillana, all to live music with Maheshwari and K Jayan on vocals.

Maulik-Ishira’s Kathak disciples Raina and Kadam in their aavartana to taal vasant on a humid evening brought elegance to their thaat, aamad and paran. In the kavit, which was the Surdas Bhajan Patita Paavana hey, the comely growing duo of Aanart endearingly essayed expression of rage, fierceness, wickedness and helplessness on faces visibly having flushes of excitement. Overall, they demonstrated the vigour of harmonious footwork, lyricism in movement and mudras, and élan in the style of coming to sam.

Dr. SD Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti,  Nartanam and Attendance. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer. He guest-edited attendance 2013 with the theme Classical Dance and Modern Times.