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Traveling dance festival
- Vijay Shankar
Photos courtesy: Natyasaraswathi

August 25, 2017

The 8th edition of the traveling dance festival known as Nrityabharathi was organized by Natyasaraswathi (Bangalore) with the joint collaboration of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at their Satyajit Ray auditorium in Kolkata on 18th August. Besides the exposition of various classical dance styles, the highlight of the program was 'Vande Mataram' as a tribute to India's 71st Independence Day celebrations.

Vande Mataram

Nrityabharathi has been conceptualized by Dr. Saraswathi Rajathesh, Kuchipudi exponent and a doctor by profession who heads the Natyasaraswathi Kuchipudi Dance Centre in Bangalore. The motive of this festival is to provide a platform to young dancers in other cities and countries, hence it is known as the traveling dance festival. It is creditable to bring classical dancers from different disciplines performing together in the patriotic composition 'Vande Mataram' written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee with suitable music composed by Bangalore's Praveen D Rao. Although the styles, technique and presentation seemed little different, the spirit of Unity in Diversity for which India is known worldwide, came to the fore. The classical dance styles performed were Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Manipuri, Kathak, Sattriya and Chhau.

Minu Shyam

Manjushree Panda

Bedanta Bikash Datta

Pooja Hirwada

The program commenced with Mohiniattam performance by Minu Shyam. Minu performed the ashtapadi "Lalita lavanga lata" with pleasing movements and expressions. With better concern towards technique and the aesthetic quality of dancing, one can expect a better performance. Manjushree Panda's Odissi was pleasing partially for its expressions; she performed the Navarasa Ramayana but drifted from the story line of Ramayana.

Pooja Hirwada from Nagpur was impressive in the dramatic quality, revealing the virile and benevolent aspect of the goddess in "Devi" in the Bharatanatyam style. With clarity of movements and a passion for dancing, Pooja can aspire to become a fine performer. Sattriya dancer Bedanta Bikash Datta's interpretation of one of the most important but neglected characters of Mahabharata, Karna, impressed the audience with his stylized movements and powerful abhinaya.

Kathakali dancer Abhishikta Maitra was unable to do justice to the drama of 'Duryodhana Vadham' as she failed to expose the intensity and suffering of Draupadi. Tanya Chakravarti in Manipuri, Akhila Deepak in Kuchipudi and Pradeep Basa in Seraikella Chhau need to further refurbish their style of performance pertaining to the technique and the expressional quality. The most lively dancer of the evening was Kathak artiste Shubhi Johari from New Delhi. Elegantly attired, she almost looked like a ballerina from a western classical ballet and her performance was striking for its quality of precise and rhythmic footwork revealing her command over layakari.

Abhishikta Maitra

Akhila Deepak

Tanya Chakravarti

Pradeep Basa

Shubhi Johari

Bappa Chatterjee and team

The most graceful dancer of the evening was Bappa Chatterjee and team from Kolkata who performed the special thematic, creative and patriotic number 'Amar Desh' signifying the glory of India's rich cultural heritage. Bappa reminded me of the legendary Uday Shankar for the particular sway and angular movement of the hands. While the four girls were attired in the traditional Bengali saree of white with red border, the four boys were colourful and they danced with fine harmony and coordination which was visually refreshing. Bappa is the disciple of Guru Kohinoor of Kolkata, and cast a spell with his mesmerizing performance.

On the whole, the festival brought out the patriotic value blending well with artistic quality of presentation.

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