Setting standards
- Shyama Sasidharan
June 21, 2016

Shanthy Rajendran’s Nrithakshetra celebrated its 34th annual concert at George Wood Performing Arts Centre, Ringwood, Victoria. The event started with little dancers, perfectly displaying the fundamental steps of Bharatanatyam starting with tattadavu beautifully woven into “Kural kettu arul puriyum” in Hindolam followed by nattadavu to “Thiruparankunrathil” in Kalyani giving way to the more intrinsic tha tai taam series blend into “Katpagha solayil” in Kaapi. It was a treat to watch the disciplined entry and exit by the little dancers.
An interesting feature was the presentation of alarippu in three different jatis. The alarippu was presented in tisram, misram and khandam by different sets of students enabling the rasikas to enjoy the crisp sollus in perfect talam. The presentation saw clean natyarambhams and clear definition of movement. The first dance item learnt by the Bharatanatyam students displayed the strong foundation laid by Shanthy Rajendran.
The traditional repertoire continued with jatiswaram in Kalyani set to roopaka talam followed by Natesa Kavuthuvam set to Hamsadhvani in adi talam. Keertanam “Nadanam adinar” by Gopalakrishna Bharathi set to Vasantha ragam and ata talam saw dancers displaying agile footwork interspersed with appropriate karanas. Then came keerthanam “Kann thiranthu” in Hamsanadam set to adi talam where mukha abhinaya was in harmony with the movements of the dancers.
Setting a lighter mood just before the interval was the Kavadi Chindhu on Lord Muruga in Senchuruti ragam which was presented by a group of mothers who drew inspiration from their children who attend the dance class to start and re-start dance! It was heart warming to observe their excitement and dedication. The concert resumed with a Pushpanjali and Ganapathi Kavuthuvam in ragam Nattai and set to adi talam followed by a Siva Kavuthuvam in Hamsadhvani ragam and adi talam.

The highlight of the event was a Vachastapati varnam written by Shanthy’s senior student Sivarubhini Kanagasabai and set to tune by violinist Suresh Babu. The half hour varnam was power packed with 12 dancers exhibiting their mettle through an array of bhaumi and akashi chari, precise footwork and exquisite formations. The dancers maintained their poses between highly agile jatis and it stood out like beautiful gems in a fine piece of jewellery. The evening concluded with a thillana in ragam Desh set to adi displaying clean footwork and followed by the popular Mangalam which witnessed all the 81 participants systematically arranging themselves on the stage in clean lines for the namaskaram.

Shanthy Rajendran’s school holds the merit of pioneering the first concert with “live music” in Australia way back since 1984. Ahilan Sivananthan’s vocals lent a divine experience to the entire event. The brother duo Sai-Nivaeithan Ravichandhira and Sai-Sarangan Ravichandhira supported effortlessly on the mridangam and Suresh Babu provided the perfect accompaniment on violin. The pivotal role of the nattuvanar was led by Shanthy Rajendran and her able senior students Luxmi Kajendra, Shangitha Rajendran, Smrithya Balasubramanian and Trishula Nagarajan who are assistant teachers at Nrithakshetra.

The annual concert was a treat, but for an ardent art enthusiast it would have been a lot more satisfying if at least one abhinaya oriented item, a padam or a javali was included in the event.  Nrithakshetra truly stands out among all the mushrooming Indian dance academies for imparting training in the traditional Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam. In a time when classical dance and music is selling like hot cakes, and many academies are taking advantage of the situation, encouraging even children with 3-4 months training to perform, Nrithakshetra waits; like Dr. Rajendran commented during a conversation – they have to earn their place!
Shyama is a Kuchipudi performer and runs her own institution Prakalpa Samskruti for Indian classical dance and Yoga.