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Utsav Dance Festival
- Vijay Shanker

July 12, 2017

Utsav Dance Festival was organised at Marathi Sahitya Mandir auditorium in New Mumbai on 26th June by Gayatri Subramanian, creative director of Takshashila Dance Academy. The festival showcased the talent of seniors and some young talented dancers as well. It was striking to see a crowd full of children and young adults and the chirpy, young crowd gave out a whole different dynamics to the mood of the day. Utsav also did see some of the greatest artists of the Mumbai circle gracing this festival put up by a young dance academy.

Deepak Mazumdar
The festival was inaugurated by Guru Darshana Jhaveri who obliged by staying for the entire day. It commenced with a lecture demonstration on 'Rasa Nishpatti' by Deepak Mazumdar, a concise presentation exhibiting a profound understanding of rasa, one of the most talked about concepts of performing arts. Deepak's rendering of the extract from Krishnakarnamritam exposed the "vatsalya" of mother Yasoda as she tries to put little Krishna to sleep by narrating the story of Valmiki's Ramayana. Deepak's abhinaya establishing the inter-relationship with the mother and little Krishna was noteworthy for its subtle play of expressions, combined with the sattvika element that created a lasting impression on the audience. Vaidehi Rele, granddaughter of Guru Kanak Rele, performed a pushpanjali and an ashtapadi "Dheere Sameere Yamuna Teere" that showed that she is indeed growing as a dancer.

The young artists' segment of the day began with Sarita Kalele and Rachna Parulkar, students of Guru Uma Dogra in Kathak style. Uma Dogra and her accomplished team of senior accompanying artists - Pt. Kalinath Mishra on the tabla, Pt. Manoj Desai on vocal and Prajakta Alka Gujjjar on the sitar - literally created a 'mehfil' on stage. Her disciples, cautiously taking steps to the challenging tukdas that Uma rendered, were tireless and spontaneous. Their thumri was especially interesting as it simultaneously portrayed two different nayikas in love with Krishna and also interwove verses of Dharmvir Bharati's poem 'Kanupriya'. Uma's electrifying personality, as though she herself was dancing from her spot on the dias, was a pleasure to watch.

This was followed by Jayalakshmi Anand, a senior student of Anita Guha, in Bharatanatyam style. She presented Lalgudi G. Jayaraman's Nilambari varnam in adi talam. A performer representing a unique confluence of the Kalakshetra and Pandanallur banis, her jatis were precise and beautiful and her abhinaya portions were rendered with abundance, but not maintaining the aramandi and movements were hasty, as they were not performed fully.

Odissi dancer Rupali Kadam, disciple of Jhelum Paranjape, left the audience spellbound. She presented Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's choreography of Ramayana, from Seeta Swayamvara to Jatayu Moksha. The performance was flawless; particularly the typical movement of Jatayu was immaculate. The petite Rupali danced into the hearts of the audience. Her performance was a trail of guru bhakti, from Kelubabu to Jhelum and from her to Rupali.

Dr. Sucheta Bhide-Chapekar
After lunch, the stage was taken over by Dr. Sucheta Bhide-Chapekar, who has mastered the art in its real essence. She spoke about her journey of 50 years as a performer from her arangetram in 1963 till today. She began with a unique Pancha Jati alarippu and went on to give us glimpses from Acharya Parvati Kumar's Sarfojiraje's Nirupana, her own research on Shahaji's compositions and her masterpiece production Nritya Ganga that weaves Bharatanatyam with Hindustani music. An epitome of grace and poise, her unequivocal devotion to the art was seen through the channel of knowledge she presented us with. When she danced and spoke for a continuous one and a half hours, it left the audience in awe of her ageless beauty and grace.

The young artists' session commenced with the students of Vaibav Arekar - Swarada Bhave and Ruta Gokhale. Vaibhav's students have created a niche for themselves, their very movements indicating that they are his students. Their spectacular lineup began with a Mallari and Shiva shloka, followed by Swati Tirunal's Shiva Keertanam and a Kshetrayya padam. Their nritta portions were brilliant but abhinaya did lack understanding and depth.

This was followed by students of Jayashree Nair - Divya Warrier and Amrita Nair - in Mohiniattam style. The dancers were sparkling in their costume and jewels and had a spirited way of carrying themselves. They began with a dynamic number on Ganapati and proceeded into a number depicting navarasa. It was an interesting choreography with sculpturesque poses and striking movements and was executed well. The day concluded with young 18 year old Siddhi Pillai, daughter and disciple of Lata Rajesh. She performed an interesting alarippu and varnam with many nritta sequences, executed precisely. She wore a black costume and minimal aharya, rather unlike the tradition.

This day long festival, without corporate sponsorship was conducted solely by one academy. There was lunch, tea and snacks, perfect arrangements, on time schedule and everything else that made for a beautiful show. Small gestures, like an environment friendly clay container given to artists, lunch served on eco friendly plates, made Utsav a class apart. Utsav was a manifestation of Gayatri's passion for the art, her devotion to her gurus and fellow artists. It will indeed be a festival that the city will look forward to.

Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.