Dance Jathre in Dharwad
- Vijay Shanker

Girija Chandranís group

February 14, 2017

Dance Jathre 2017, the two day performing arts festival, was the first of its kind organised in Dharwad, north Karnataka, at the premises of Rangayana and its amphitheatre on 28th and 29th January. The soul of the festival is the renowned Kuchipudi exponent Vyjayanti Kashi and was hosted by Shambhavi School of Dance, Bangalore, supported by Saakara, a cultural and media foundation in Dharwad.

At the inaugural address, Vyjayanti Kashi narrated her experience as a young girl when she was fascinated by fairs organised in her village by her grandfather and it was a long cherished dream to organise such a festival in the field of dance in which dancers from different styles and locations could meet and interact and showcase their talent. Furthermore under the same roof, one could purchase all the accessories like make-up, costume, music cds, books etc. Besides the dance competitions for juniors and seniors, there were workshops and performances conducted by eminent exponents.

Dance Jathre was inaugurated by Prakash Garuda (director, Rangayana, Dharwad), Vyjayanti Kashi and the judges of the competitions. The participating artists for workshop and performances in the festival included Mohiniattam by Girija Chandran and Regatta group, Trivandrum, Bharatanatyam by Sheela Unnikrishnan's group, Chennai, Theatre by Rajani Garud, Dharwad, martial arts of Manipur by Biseshwar Sharma, Assam folk by Sunanda N, Kalaripayattu by SRD Prasad and group, Kuchipudi by Vyjayanti Kashi and group, Odissi by Daksha Mashruwala and group, Kerala, and contemporary dance by Abhilash Nanjappa.

The evening performances commenced with elegant Mohiniattam by Girija Chandran and Regatta group, commencing with Arbhi Ganesh, a composition by Kavalam that portrays how Lord Shiva appears while Parvati is taking her bath and the young Ganesha would not move aside. Lord Shiva pacifies him with a fruit and asks him to go and play. After this number the dancers performed Kiratarjuneeyam that interprets the story of how Shiva appears as a Kirata (hunter) and fights with Arjuna. Arjuna loses and worships lord Shiva and is surprised to see the flowers falling at the feet of the hunter and it is only then that he realizes that the hunter is none other than lord Shiva himself. This number was performed with dramatic quality and suitable movements. The dancers concluded with the precise execution of the Swati Thirunal Dhanasri thillana.

Sheela Unnikrishnan's group
Sreedevi Nrityalaya under the direction of Sheela Unnikrishnan, rendered a powerful performance in the Bharatanatyam style, pertaining to the Adi Shankara composition 'Ashta Lakshmi' that portrays the eight manifestations of the goddess like dhaanya (food), dhairiya (valour), vijaya (victory), santaana (children), dhanya (wealth) and other forms. It was interesting to watch as to how each dancer depicted these aspects in their individualistic style. The piece-de-resistance of the evening was the dramatic performance of Kaliya Nartanam wherein the dancers effectively demonstrated the ten-headed serpent Kaliya and the fight with Krishna.

Vyjayanti Kashi, Prateeksha Kashi and dancers from Shambhavi School of Dance performed 'Shakti Bhakti' that powerfully incorporated two strong women characters who have faced adversity and emerged victorious. Kubja was a cursed woman who served the wicked king Kamsa but is a devotee of lord Krishna. When the lord makes an appearance and Kubja applies sandalwood on him, she is surprised to learn that she has retained her original beauty with his blessings. The role of Kubja was brilliantly enacted by Vyjayanti Kashi, who went into the skin of the character with the typical hunch back. The role of Krishna and the role of Rudramadevi were enacted by Prateeksha Kashi. The fight with the enemies and the lively horse movements was well performed by Prateeksha.

Daksha Mashruwala, Namrata Mehta and other Odissi dancers performed poet Narsinh Mehta's composition "Vaishnava Jana to" that promotes the concept of "sarva dharma samanwayan" and secularism, leaving a lasting impression. The martial art form of thang ta and Kalaripayattu created a lasting spell on the audience as they were thrilled to watch young boys and girls demonstrating varied defense movements with swords, shields, spear, wooden shaft and the metallic urvi.

Malati Pattanshetti, chairman of the Karnataka Sahitya Academy, Bangalore, while praising the efforts of Vyjayanti Kashi said that such festivals should be organized for at least one week, as Dharwad is known for its contribution in the field of music and literature, but awareness of dance is lacking. She was happy to state that there is joy in dance, unlike music and literature where pain is the predominant subject. Kudos to the Dance Jathre team for a festival of such magnitude.