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Showcase of Indian classical dance in Sydney
- Mohan Ayyar
Photos courtesy: Madhuram Academy

April 19, 2018

Madhuram Academy's 2018 edition of the Sydney Dance Festival once again delighted dance lovers by featuring four distinct styles of classical Indian dance performed by experienced dancers. The festival's artist selection is done by an elite panel comprising of Chitra Visweswaran, Dr. Sunil Kothari, Sujata Mohapatra and Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai. Held at the Bryan Brown Theatre on 7 April, this is a showcase event for Indian dance in Sydney and the visiting dancers also conduct dance workshops in conjunction with local Indian classical dance schools.

Sanatani Rombola

Praveen Kumar

The festival, now in its fifth iteration, started with Odissi performed by Australia based Sanatani Rombola. A disciple of Guru Sujata Mohapatra, Sanatani commenced with Vishnu Vandana invoking the blessings of Lord Jagannath. From the outset, the graceful movements were evident, and these continued in the Aravi Pallavi where Sanatani demonstrated a strong grip of laya while exhibiting nritta. In Jayamahesha, the qualities of Lord Shiva were brought out in vivid form while Moksha was a celebration of ecstasy as the dancer seeks salvation from the physical. Here, Sanatani performed stunning sculpturesque poses and mudras but abhinaya required further refinement.

In contrast, Praveen Kumar (Bharatanatyam) performed a master class in abhinaya and held the audience spellbound with his evocative expressions. From Bangalore, Praveen Kumar is a disciple of late Guru Narmada and Prof CV Chandrasekhar. In the Sivanjali (Mahadeva Shiva Shambho), Praveen's crisp movements established a clear indication of what lay ahead. The main item was loosely styled in the form of a varnam in raga Hindolam and described the sakha relationship between Arjuna and Krishna. Taking on the role of Arjuna, Praveen's adavus were sharp and refined, in the style of Guru CVC. The introduction of archery poses in the jatis was an innovative way to connect to the Arjuna theme and the climax was the demonstration of Arjuna witnessing Krishna's Vishwarupam. In the padam Ososi, where the nayaka laments his sins, Praveen's depth of expression came to the fore, conveying intense emotions through subtle eye and brow movements. The mood changed in the kanada javali as Praveen took on the role of playful Krishna who entices an obstinate and moody gopika. Again, abhinaya was clear and original, as Krishna charmed his lover and Praveen Kumar charmed the entire audience!

During the Kuchipudi segment by Sailaja Narayanaswamy (disciple of late Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam), the tempo was raised. Dancing to Swati Tirunal's Shankara Sri Giri, Sailaja took on the role of Nataraja dancing in the golden hall, while during the ashtapadi she elaborated on Krishna adorning himself with sandalwood paste to entice the girls. In the tarangam, Sailaja portrayed the beauty of Lord Krishna effectively, although the abhinaya was a little exaggerated. She then exhibited her rhythmic artistry by dancing on the brass plate. The performance concluded on a high note with an expressive fight sequence as Sailaja embodied Durgadevi in the Mahishasuramardini stotram.


Gauri Diwakar

Kathak was the last dance form featured and performed by Gauri Diwakar, a disciple of Jai Kishan Maharaj and Aditi Mangaldas. Gauri commenced with graceful movements in the Ganesh vandana and exhibited further nritta in her depictions of Lord Shiva. There was ample scope for exhibition of deft footwork in the madhyalaya tukras to the backdrop of poetry by Lal Balbir. In bhaav, Gauri revealed the heroine engrossed in love while a contrast was achieved in the drutlaya tarana where more complicated footwork and breathtaking pirouettes were on show.

From an organisational perspective, Madhuram Academy did well to keep to the scheduled times and bring such an array of dance styles to the Indian dance lovers of Sydney. Kudos to organisers Kalpana Sriram and Dr. Divya Sriram for all the efforts they put in to organise this annual event.

Mohan Ayyar is a PhD scholar in Indian music and dance at Macquarie University.