Male moves
- Lalitha Venkat
Pics: Vivekanandan

December 31, 2013

PURUSH: The Global Dancing Male, was an ambitious culmination of dancer/arts presenter Dr. Anita Ratnam’s three year role as convener, artistic director and curator of the annual Natya Darshan conference series hosted by Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai. PURUSH was dedicated to explorations of the male dancer in India and the diaspora from classical traditions to contemporary manifestations.

Astad Deboo
The performances on the evening of Dec 20 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan commenced with a scintillating recital by the master of contemporary dance in India, Astad Deboo. Astad presented Aahavan, offering his work to the space and body, both very integral in dance. Astad reaffirmed his singular position in contemporary dance, whose 40 year long journey began to reap accolades in India only 25 years ago. Slow, controlled and distilled, his performance was a beacon for male soloists. Audience held their collective breath as he culminated with 173 chakkars in his final piece! The billowing costume twirling around had as much of a hypnotic effect as the meditative quality of the pirouettes and the entranced audience gave him a standing ovation. As Astad himself admitted later on, “I was very nervous for it was after over a decade I was going to do a solo in Chennai and I must say I was very touched by the reception I got for my work. Moments like these give me strength to continue with my struggle.” 

PT Narendran ensemble
After such a rousing start to evening performances, the next group to grace the stage was P.T. Narendran and his co-dancers K.B. Madhusudanan, Arun Shankar, Nidheesh Kumar and Sreenath who presented three items, specially choreographed in a group format by Narendran for the Purush festival. The invocatory item on Ganesha (in Hindi) was followed by a Shanmukhapriya varnam (in Tamil) composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman on Tirupathi Venkatachalapathi and concluded with a kirthanam in Shankarabharanam, a composition of Swati Thirunal (in Sanskrit) that describes the dance of Lord Shiva and includes a lot of pure dance. The performance represented the Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam. While Narendran’s expertise stood out for perfection of movements and vigour, the individually talented dancers in the group somehow did not present a cohesive whole. The Kalakshetra style of dance did not shine through and the choice of items left many wondering where the traditional Kalakshetra repertoire had vanished to.

Rudrakshya dance ensemble

The finale of the evening was an Odissi group recital by Rudrakshya dance ensemble from Bhubaneswar headed by Guru Bichitrananda Swain. This group has been creating waves wherever they perform in India or overseas and they definitely did not disappoint. Lesson in superb coordination and teamwork, the dynamic evening was a rousing, foot stomping showcase for masculinity, vigour and high octane energy. Mangalacharan (Surya Stutee) was followed by Tala Madhurya in pure dance composed of sculpturesque poses, intricate footwork and composite body movements. The beauty of the dance form on male bodies shone through the well coordinated movements of dancers Lingaraj Pradhan, Abhijit Dev, Abhaya Kumar Parida, Rashmi Ranjan Barik and Sameer Kumar Panigrahi. The recital concluded with a solo abhinaya Karna, performed by Lingaraj Pradhan at his evocative best. 

Lalitha Venkat is the content editor of