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When little Gandharvas descended on stage
- Chittaranjan Mothikhane

November 19, 2017

Articulate Festival on 12th of November at Mysore, launched a new series 'Udgama', a platform dedicated to the dance talent of children. Festival Director Mysore B Nagaraj confessed his guilt that the every 3rd Sunday of the month dance festival which he conducts at the Premier Convention Hall, Premier Studios, showcased artists above the age of 18 only… reason - child prodigies would steal the whole show! It was a deliberate deduction only to give way for an exclusive occasion for the gifted children to show that they too can justify the classical dance arts. And yes, they did steal the hearts of the prekshakas.

Feature on Rama in Bharatanatyam

Sai Arts International

Seven children from the portals of Sai Arts International, Bangalore, trained by Dr. Suparna Venkatesh,  unfolded anecdotes from Rama's life, in a seamless presentation, through the lyrics of Maharaja Swati Thirunal. In "Bhavayami Raghuramam," the 25 minutes of dance canvas was wonderfully executed as per well thought out choreography with portions of the composition apportioned between the artists. The transitions from one set of children to the other was a clean fade out and fade in with the allocated sequence well enacted. It was like watching a Ramayana Patachitra (The painted ceremonial temple cloth that hangs in the sanctum) come to life. Abhinaya is not forte of every child artist, but Suparna Venkatesh's choreography is well knit with exquisite pantomimes within the boundaries of Bharatanatyam format and its dictums. Ably assisted by daughter Shweta Venkatesh and her associate Kavita Krishnamurthy, the child artists Sanchitha Srinivas, Padma L, Tanushree Kaushik, Hasikaa ML, Diya U, Sanjana S Acharya and Shreyyaa Mahesh were a delight to watch.

The dance of the enchantress
The swaying of the palm trees, the gentle flow of the backwaters, the flapping of elephant ears,  the demeanor of the royal women of Parashurama Kshetra all bundled in the two damsels, showed up in their execution of the dance of the enchantress. Mohiniattam, as taught by Guru Sreedevi Unni in her dance school Monisha Arts, Bangalore, had made those movements of nature the grammar of the dance form. In the two presentations, Parvaty K Nair and Hitha Hemanth offered obeisance to Sri Ganapathy and Sri Krishna of Guruvayur. While the first segment was interspersed with chollukattu, the second was well mimed to the words of the poetry. Mysoreans do not get treated with this form often, and this presentation was an added flavor to the already wholesome platter of dance in all its authenticity of composition and presentation.

Parvaty K Nair and Hitha Hemanth


The peppy art of Kuchipudi
Who says classical dance is a prerogative of the females! Boys too can dance, as good and sometimes better. Dr. Sanjay Shantaram's disciple Madhusudhan just proved the point. With his chubby cheeks and boyish charms, he danced Kuchipudi in abandonment to the rythmic phrases and strains of melody. One wondered if the fountain of energy will ever exhaust in that child. His stature befitted Ganesha as he sought his blessings. Dr. M Balamuralikrishna's Ganesha Vandana in Hamsadhwani set to adi tala was perfectly executed to the rigorous instructions of his guru. The crown of his performance was the dexterously manipulated brass plate to the syllables of the percussion. Before he ventured to the acrobatics, his joy of describing Bala Krishna's deeds and high jinks was contagious as audience watched, reflecting his smiles on their own faces. The locking of his toes and executing interesting moves that's an identifiable aspect of Kuchipudi, heralded the clash of the brass plate against the stone floor echoing the patterns of the percussion. On his conclusion, of ragamalika shloka and neelambari-adi tala tarangam, instinctively, many in the audience, stood up as mark of appreciation. A gesture rarely shown when one sees the same dance performed by adult dancers.

The impish Yakshagana
Who says Yakshagana is the prerogative of the male dancers! The twins, Vaibhavi Shetty and Vaishnavi Shetty, guided in this coastal theater of Karnataka by Guru Begar, Bangalore, were like exotic puppets come alive with no strings attached. In the badaga tittu style of the art, the twins commenced with a prayer to Lord Ganesha and proceeded to enact the mischievousness of young Krishna in a Kannada composition "Bala Gopala." The steps and gyrations appeared as naughty as Krishna himself and the rolling of the two child dancers' eyes exuded that impishness of the character portrayed. The second act opened with a rectangular piece of cloth playfully handled to introduce the character. The peek-a-boo moves was very delightfully puckish and impishly executed. The piece concluded with invocation to the eight cardinal deities of the directions while the children sought blessings for themselves and for the onlookers too.

Vaibhavi Shetty and Vaishnavi Shetty

Shashank Udyavar

A tornado called Kathak
The identity of Kathak rests in the fast paced footwork and the speedily executed spins. That's exactly what was displayed by the amazing child Shashank Udyavar, disciple of Mysore B Nagaraj. Shashank carried with him that élan that a Kathak artist requires. One wondered if the sound of ankle bells was already married to the recorded music, such was the perfect synchronization of his feet to the music echoing every syllable played. The unleashing of energy in his multiple spins matched the freeze when he reached the first beat of the time cycle after executing complex bandhish. His opening dance on Shiva was punctuated with Shiva's stance and footwork reflecting the virile energy of the dancing lord. The nritta Taal Maal in ragamalika in time cycle of 16 beats proved his understanding of different jaatis of a taal when he executed the todas, tukdas and parans to precision after establishing with verities of the taal through chaal. The climax was in the padakriya that he dazzled the spectators leaving them wondering when was his feet on the ground and when was it off.

Angelic Odissi
A doll walked onto the stage, on tippatty tippatty toes, in a gait where one foot criss-crossed the path of the other, while the torso bent in  multiple angles, daintily executing innocent and yet sensual movements, eyes darting sharp and yet throwing mischievous glances, that the art of Odissi demands. Amidst all these, the innocence of the child did not betray the inner spiritual fervor she carried while offering pranams to lord Jagannath. Love was perceived in the colors of either sensual or spiritual, but this young girl explored a different perspective through innocence that personified purity in the dalliance of Radha with Krishna. Her guru Madhulita Mohapatra's choreography to the music by Binod Bihari Panda was sublime in the treatment of the item, which the child artist justified. In her third act, she brought to imaginary form the various sculptures of Konark in an otherwise empty space, as though tricking us to believe that it really existed and breathed, such was her posture, her movements across the space and her general artistic attitude at such a tender age. The perfectness in the poise of playing musical instruments was sculpturesque. Angeleena Avnee  stole two things from the audience - one their attention and another their hearts. She truly deserved a standing ovation, and she got it.

Angeleena Avnee

Bhoomika R, Divyasree and Anjana Suresh Kumar

Treat by the trio in Bharatanatyam
Bhoomika R, Divyasree and Anjana Suresh Kumar, disciples of Badri Divya Bhushan and Anjana Bhushan, Mysore, chose to perform standard repertoire from Bharatanatyam. Starting with Melaprapti in raga Naata where they offered obeisance to god, stage and pranams to audience, next they chose an alaripu in Chaturashra jaathi before performing Dayanand Saraswathi's "Bho Shambho" (Revathi, adi) and concluded with a briskly executed mangalam that encapsulated Rama's story. Some of the postures that required extreme flexibility were deftly displayed in the item on Shiva and the overall high energy the three dancers put on view was praiseworthy.

That evening, the Bala Gandharvas descended on the stage, pushing some spectators to the edge of the seat and some to stand in honor of their artistic achievements. Mysore B Nagaraj plans to make this a bi-annual festival dedicated to showcase artistically gifted children. Looking forward to another bout of happiness six months from now in Udgama-02.