A night of spirituality and tradition
- Neha Nataraj
e-mail: neha.naatya@gmail.com

April 8, 2015

‘Vibhava’ was hosted by Three Aksha in collaboration with senior dance Guru Professor C. V. Chandrasekhar. The project, including a two-week workshop and several performances at the Painted Bride Art Center, took place between March 2 and March 15 in Philadelphia, PA.  At the centerpiece of the showcase was a performance by Prof. C. V. Chandrasekhar, the 79-year-old master of Bharatanatyam.  The project leading up to this night included workshops and demonstrations by the Professor, as well as a showcase by the participants prior to his performance.

The showcase started off with a Pushparpanam invocation, which included a Ganesha stuthi in honor of the auspicious god Ganesha. The Three Aksha dancers entered in perfect unison in their pastel colored costumes and opened the show with great energy. The next item was a dramatic shloka on Lord Indra, king of the gods. Three Aksha’s junior performers exhibited Indra’s masculinity and power with prowess, charming the audience with their delightful smiles and crisp movements. The evening continued with Usi Allaripu choreographed by Guru C. V. Chandrasekhar.  This was set to the offbeat on a three-beat cycle, making it a very challenging item and giving the music a slight edge. The dancers were coordinated and displayed crisp movements and radiant energy. The program followed with pieces like Devanjali, Ganesha shloka in the Khandajati beat cycle, Krishnanjali in honor of the playful god Krishna, and Jatisangamam.

The main piece of the evening was Vibhava, a composition by Jayadeva set in ragamalika.  This vibrant dance choreographed by Prof. Chandrasekhar, illustrated the dashavatara, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The song began dramatically as the dancers rose from the ground in the different avataras of Vishnu. The red lighting and symbolic peacock feather enhanced the intensity of this opening. The song began with a shloka performed by the dancers with a great depth of bhava. Following this invocatory shloka was the main item, which returned every time to the chorus line, “Jaya jagadeesha hare!” Each stanza dedicated to each avatar began with a line of sahitya, words describing the avatar, and ended with swaras, musical notes. Viji Rao gave a vivid depiction of Narasimha, the half-lion, half-man avatar. The fast swaras for the stanza describing Vamana or the dwarf-sized incarnation was enjoyable. The dancers executed the movements with precision and crispness. The item ended as Prof. Chandrasekhar entered the stage for the first time, dressed in a refreshingly bright pink and cream costume, depicting the devotee and narrator of the song, Jayadeva. It was a lovely and touching end to a beautifully choreographed and dramatically depicted presentation. The first half of the night ended with a thillana in the raga Hamsanandi and choreographed by the Professor. The narration at the end spoke in praise of the goddess Annapurneshwari. This item was presented by four local dancers who participated in the collaborative workshop with Three Aksha.

The second half of the night consisted of a varnam presented by Guru Chandrasekhar himself– a fitting finale to an enjoyable and memorable night. This varnam in the raga Kambodi and set to adi tala, is a composition of Thiruveezhimalai Nataraja Sundaram Pillai. The dancer expresses her feelings for Lord Muruga to her friend, “Oh, friend!  Please bring Lord Muruga back to me! Will someone who knows the pangs of love be able to stay separate?  Is his heart made of stone?  Will it not soften and have compassion for me?”

Despite his age, this evergreen dancer demonstrated every single aramandi, natyarambham, swasthikam, mukthayams, Garuda mandala and prayenkanam with incredible precision.  These pure dance basics presented in his crisp and energetic performance was supplemented with his delicate and tasteful bhava.  Every time a complicated jati went by, the audience sat breathless and applauded with genuine awe.  His beautiful performance was followed by an enjoyable question/answer session during which the master artist’s playful personality and powerful passion for dance shone through. All in all, it was a night of great quality and entertainment.