Maiden performance by Sankalpa Dance Ensemble
- Janaki Kolady

April 16, 2017

On the evening of Feb 4, 2017, Portland, OR, was treated to an exquisite thematic Bharatanatyam   margam presented by the three lovely dancers of the Sankalpa Dance Ensemble. Sankalpa is a group envisioned by three local Portland Bharatanatyam dancers - Sridharini Sridharan (disciple of Revathi Ramachandran), Sweta Ravisankar (disciple of Roja Kannan and Padmini Radhakrishnan) and Yashaswini Raghuram (disciple of Shubha Dhananjay), who came together in 2016 with the vision of promoting the art form and sustaining sampradaya.

The margam commenced with “Swagatham Krishna” in Mohanam ragam set to adi talam, tishra nadai. Here the dancers welcome the lord of Mathura, Sri Krishna. The dancers held the audience captive as they swayed to the mellifluous voice of K.J. Yesudas.

Sridharini Sridharan, Yashaswini Raghuram and Sweta Ravisankar
Photo: Gidu Sriram

Next, the artists performed an alarippu in mishra triputa talam, which was interspersed with various episodes from Krishna’s life. The choreography for this piece was very innovative. The alarippu then beautifully transitioned into a varnam, “Innum en manam ariyadavar pola” set to Charukesi ragam and adi talam, a composition of Lalgudi G Jayaraman. Here the heroine pines for her beloved and begs of him to come and fill her world with the sweet music of his flute. The dancers beautifully portrayed the angst of the heroine and the various moods of Krishna as they enacted various episodes from his life ranging from his childhood pranks with the gopis and his teaching a lesson to Mahabali in the form of the dwarf - Vamana.

The second half of the margam began with a javali in which the mugdha nayika played by Yashaswini bewitched the audience with her emotive, mesmerizing eyes and abhinaya. Here we can see the emotions of a woman from the bygone era who was full of only love and respect for her lord and gave no place to personal ego. Thoroughly smitten by the handsome features of her lord Venkatesha, another form of Krishna, she expresses to her friend how dejected and disappointed she feels that the lord never came to see her. Though she is full of hope and decorates her house and her person in anticipation of his arrival, he has shown no mercy so far. The heroine is determined to wait it out and never loses hope of seeing her beloved. “Idene Sakhi” is a composition of Venkatadri Shyamarao, in raag Behag and adi tala.

With “Vishamakara Kannan”, the famous composition of Ootukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer in ragam Senchurutti, Sridharini and Sweta absolutely won over the audience with their playful, naughty and endearing antics as they depicted Krishna as a youthful prankster. The dancers went on to depict the magnificent dance of Krishna on the heads of serpent Kalinga with the Kalinga Narthana Thillana set to ragam Nattai and talam adi. Here, the grace of Yashaswini combined with the crisp, straight lines of Sweta and Sridharini - a striking blend of the two, kept the audience enraptured. The magical evening came to an end with a beautiful devotional Abhang. The three dancers moved the audience with their soul wrenching devotion dancing in spiritual ecstasy to Lord Vitthala.

Portland is indeed blessed to have these talented dancers in their midst. Their dedication and passion for the art form is truly inspirational.

Janaki Kolady is a Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam dancer and is a disciple of Kalamandalam Vimala Menon. She currently learns Kuchipudi under Anuradha Ganesh in Portland.