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Bountiful flow of Nadi
- Jyothi Raghuram

May 24, 2017

Technical perfection, aesthetics, poetics, and deeply entrenched classicism were the sum substance of Nadi, the latest group choreography work of Leela Samson, premiered in Bengaluru last week. Leela has been her own benchmark, assuring her viewer a different outing each time, from concept to content to actualization on stage.

With Nadi as a metaphor, what crystallized was beautifully flowing, meandering rivers, the flora and fauna around them, gushing waterfalls, lightning and rain, scintillating Ganga aarti, the eternity of life against the backdrop of karmic cycles, culminating in a sense of bounty brought on by the imagery of rivers.

Even as the show began, the stamp of Leela was visible - skilful manoeuvres to capture the movement of water and beauty of nature juxtaposed against the perfect moves of extremely well-groomed dancers of Spanda, full of boundless energy. It was a treat to watch each dancer matching the other in their bid towards perfection. Set to haunting music by Rajkumar Bharati, the lyrics drawn from Kannada, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Tamil and Samskritam, was integral to the appeal of Nadi, the dance flowing as smoothly as the river waters, their gushing reflected in the robustness of the male dancers and the agility of their female counterparts.

Stunning symmetry in apparent asymmetry was the essence of the group choreography; not a line was out of sync; the imagery of the river blended easily with the abstract concepts of karma and accountability that come into play when leaving this world to another, the constant in the scenario remaining the ever-flowing Ganga.

The most memorable piece of course was the dance set to a weighty Muthuswamy Dikshitar composition in Samskritam. Ethereal is what would best describe this piece, sublime in its aural and visual impact. The fierce Ganga being trapped in the matted locks of Shiva and then tamely flowing, was ensconced as much in sringara, the journey from birth to death flashed past, the Ganga aarti with lighted lamps creating a dream like ambience. The piece was beauty personified.

That writings of Rabindranth Tagore, Dikshitar, and Girish Karnad among others had been selected enhanced the musical status, yes. But it was in their free-spirited rendering that the lyrics literally found voice, the raga bhava-seeped rendering of Sharmishta Chatterjee, Srikanth, Keerthana Vaidyanathan, Ananthanarayan, and Vidya Rao of different genres of music flowing into a smooth confluence. This ensemble of musicians was indeed a coup achievable only by the ingenuity of Leela Samson!

Leela’s solo in the thumri, with its philosophical overtones, was gently impressionistic. The use of white cloth as a vehicle to carry the abstract concept only became a distraction with its repeated flaunting. Costuming was a trifle drab. Lighting by B. K. Ravishankar helped capture the theme effectively. The program at the Seva Sadan was got up by Gramsci Foundation, which in its two years of existence, has brought top senior dancers of the country to Bengaluru.

Jyothi Raghuram is a trained Bharatanatyam dancer and a journalist with 25 years' experience.