Onam delights and an upset!
Text & pics: Hareesh N. Nampoothiri
September 19, 2014
Once again the festival of Onam made the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram bustle with cultural events. Though in a limited way, classical dance forms were also featured in the week long official ‘Onakhosham 2014’organized by the Department of Tourism, Govt. of Kerala. Noted performances were the solo by Paris Laxmi, duet by Neelamana sisters and group performances by Kalakshetra and the troupe led by Shobana.
A disciple of French dancer Dominique Delorme and Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, Myriam Sophia Laxmi aka Paris Laxmi is trained in both Bharatanatyam and Bharatanrithyam. After opening with a self-choreographed Pushpanjali (Gambheera Nattai / adi) she moved on to the Kharaharapriya varnam "Aadave Arul Purivai...", a composition of Balasubrahmaniam and Madurai Sethuraman, set to dance by Dominique Delorme. The karanas of Bharatanrithyam were put into good use here and the precise execution of them made Laxmi's recital stand out. She was equally at ease handling the sthayi and those sancharis, be it the portrayal of Nandanar in "Varugalamo Ayya..." (Gopalakrishna Bharathi / Manji / misra chapu) or enacting the narratives included in the Meera bhajan "Hari Tum Haro..." (Darbari Kanada / adi). Maybe she could have brought more depth in abhinaya by adding subtlety rather than exaggerating in a few places. She then presented the joyful nayika in Oothukkadu Venkatasubbaiyer's "Kuzhaloothi Manamellam..." (Kamboji / adi) and concluded with a thillana in Sindubhairavi.
Team of artists from Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, presented ‘Thraisram’ depicting the triadic existence of life through dance. After setting off with a traditional alarippu, the dance production made use of verses from Ramayana, Purandara Dasa’s "Aadidano Ranga..." and Aandal’s "Patti Meyndhu..." in an attempt to metaphorically represent human life, relationships and discovery of inner self. As expected from a group of meticulously trained dancers, the performers presented the sequences with dexterity. Indu Mohan and Sibi Sudarsan were seen in the lead. Making and breaking different formations while taking the traditional adavus, the dancers made sure that they were in full control and displayed good sense of space. However, ‘Thraisram’ fell short of expectations as it only lasted for less than an hour and other than the neatly executed choreography it had nothing much to offer. The performance came to an end with Kalakshetra's own Natabhairavi thillana.
‘Samadhina’, the dance production by Shobana and team, surely can boast of variety as it had stotrams, ashtapadis, sufi poetry and even western music forming the background score. But their performance here hardly benefited out of this musical richness as their dancing ended up all bland. Colliding at times, often misaligned and forced to adjust afterward – the dancers, including Shobana, were seen shockingly lackadaisical in their approach. Adding to it was Shobana’s awkward facial expressions spoiling the very essence of abhinaya. Meanwhile, the team managed to give some relief as they made some flawless formations like that of Vamana placing his third step on Mahabali’s head, during the presentation of ‘Dasavatara.’
The final day of the festival saw Draupadi Praveen and Padmini Krishnan, referred to as Neelamana Sisters, presenting jugalbandi between Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi in their ‘Nrutha Samanvayam.’ They opened with 'Nadanapooja' followed by 'Ardhanariswara Stuti' and they explored the dancing possibilities of the two dance forms in combination in these pieces. “Bhogindra Sayinam...” (Swathi Thirunal / Kunthalavarali / jhampa) was presented next, in which they unfolded the myth about the origin of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple by taking the roles of Krishna and sage Divakara. While Draupadi made use of the expressive nature of Bharatanatyam, Padmini complimented it with her briskly paced Kuchipudi. Unfortunately they ran out of time and had to end their recital with the Amba Stuti in which the duo skillfully illustrated various manifestations of Devi.
The solo of Paris Laxmi was staged at the Koothambalam of Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan and the other three were staged at Nishagandhi open-air auditorium.
Hareesh N Nampoothiri is a visual design consultant by profession, an art lover by obsession and a photographer who specializes in dance photography. He is the founder of NEWNMEDIA, a firm providing digital design solutions; an author of two books; and the director of 'Thouryathrikam', a documentary feature on Kathakali. He also writes regularly on classical dance performances and films for various web / print media.