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Collective legacy remembered
- Jyothi Raghuram
Photos courtesy: Drishti

January 25, 2018

One has believed that different styles of Bharatanatyam do not really matter; what essentially counts is whether the dance is good to watch, its aesthetics not derived from a subjective viewpoint. Inherent to this understanding is that a parampara is more about grooming and dedication, looking at dance itself from a holistic viewpoint than demarcations of distinctions in styles. An event which ratified this belief was the Drishti National Dance Festival in Bengaluru on January 13, 2018.

Namana, dedicated to three of the most respected and best loved dance teachers of Karnataka—Maya Rao, Padmini Ramachandran and Narmada—featured their wards in a grand coming together of dancers of repute, pointing to the continued legacy left behind by them. Those paying tribute were no mere dancers; they were torch bearers of their alma mater as they run their own dance schools.

Even for those of us who had known these gurus and interacted with them frequently, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Those were the days when a sense of anonymity had not yet set in, the guru-shishya relationship being one of warmth and intimacy without compromising on respect. Such a close relationship forged a bonding not just between the teacher and the taught, but even among fellow dancers, a fallout of which was what one saw on stage—senior dancers of the same dance school jointly paying tribute to their teacher. It was easily discernible that it was not just a group feature; it was a coming together of hearts. This is the greater legacy left behind by these devoted gurus, who were as different in their personalities as they were similar in their love for their art and their family of dancers.

Vivacity, ebullience, buoyancy and abundant energy, the hallmarks of Guru Padmini's persona, was visible on stage, Mithun Shyam, Priyanka Raghavan, Keertana Ravi, Shruti Parshwanath and Sneha Devanandan marking their presence with particularly tidy nritta, reined-in but apt abhinaya, as telescoped in the popular Dasavataram kriti, Paarkadal alai melae (ragamalika). It was as heartening that another senior ward of Padmini, Kirti Ramgopal, wielded the cymbals, and with confidence and competence.

Padmini Namana

Narmada Namana

Guru Narmada was affable, friendly, informal and without airs. Her dance school was an open house for laughter, confidentialities, Narmada keeping her students in a chirpy mood with her ready wit. She was one of the first teachers to accept dancers from other schools as her own, with no expectation of any kind of loyalty from them. This was one of her most endearing qualities.

Four celebrated dancers—Satyanarayana Raju, Soundarya Srivathsa, Praveen Kumar and Anuradha Vikranth, the program organizer, presented Devadideva Nataraja (varnam-Shanmukhapriya), a signature item of Shakuntala Nrityalaya. It was in the toe-tapping sollakattus visualized as unconventional yet attractive korvais that Guru Narmada's skills of innovative nritta combinations were showcased once again. Soundarya's quiet dignity, Praveen's exacting lines, Anuradha's mature demeanour and Satyanarayana's distinctive stage presence coalesced into a professional showing whose overt statement was one of agreeability.

Maya Rao, who brought Kathak to the South in a big way through her Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography, found representation in her daughter Madhu Nataraj, who is more into Indian contemporary dance. She personified fluidity of movement, sincerity in the feel of the bhava, and stringency in footwork in her thumri (portraying stillness) and tarana (Janjuruti).

The popular dancing couple, Nirupama Rajendra and T.D. Rajendra, who are two of the earliest wards of Rao, followed suit. Their Vimana Yana, pointed out as an aerial view of some of the places and incidents that Rama and Sita visited and experienced during their vanavasa, even as they are returning to Ayodhya, was breezy, while Damaru Dima Dima, weaving angaharas into the idiom of Kathak, was delicately nuanced. Theirs was an outing which reflected the tradition left behind by Rao, even as they have creatively branched off on their own.

Maya Namana: Nirupama & Rajendra

Maya Namana: Natya Stem Dance Kampni

Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar

Dr. Sunil Kothari

Getting up a dance show in memory of one's Guru is not uncommon. For Anuradha Vikranth and T.M. Vikranth to have chosen three stalwarts to be represented by their direct wards, was not only an innovative idea but a memorable initiative that proudly imprinted the dance legacy of Karnataka once again.
The Drishti Puraskar was given to veteran dance exponent Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar and the equally experienced dance critic Dr. Sunil Kothari on the occasion.

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