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Dance that was dignified and delicate
- Chittaranjan Mothikhane

July 14, 2018

Kathak exponent Mysore B Nagaraj who conducts the Articulate Festival every month in Mysore, shared his joy with the audience by launching the website of Articulate Trust for Arts under which the festivals are conducted, encapsulating the 2 years of its journey. The program takes place punctually on the 3rd Sunday of every month irrespective of rain or shine. The festival has platformed lesser seen dances like classical Manipuri and Sattriya of Assam, the ability of differently abled in the classical dance arts, the diversity of music and movement by making folk traditions of Karnataka compare with folk tradition of Lithuania, and the talents unfolded by prodigies from 7 year to 15 year olds, making a statement that classical dance still draws attention.

The repertoire has been changing from decade to decade, some leaning towards technical virtuosity at the cost of losing the subtleness and divinity that the abhinaya aspect of Indian dance reverberates. On 17th June 2018, at the renovated semi enclosed auditorium of Ganabharathi, Ramabai Govindrao Hall was consecrated by the satwika abhinaya by stalwarts in the genre of Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam.

The suggestiveness that the mujras exuded through enticing gestures, especially on the onset of item numbers in Bollywood gave an impression that "that was Kathak." Guru Shama Bhate of Pune proved that Kathak is more and beyond heaving chests and winking eyes. The art of telling divine stories through melody and movements by Shama Bhate was mesmerizing. The essence of the poetry was very communicating even when the artist appeared sans standard aharyas, thus pointing that elaborate costumes have no cognizance when danced by legends. The pranks of Krishna to the persona of Rama in her three renditions of Kathak numbers, made one realize that the emphasis on brahmaris that resembled cyclonic swirls and padakriyas that look like feet on fire was not necessarily the must in a Kathak performance as done by the youthful dancers of today. The unhurried pace of Shama Bhate's performance was as calming as the still waters of mountain lakes now and then ruffled by gentle breeze stirring up little ripples only to settle once again. The dignity of Kathak was redefined by the senior artist who remains young in spirit through dance and the ankle bells reverberate in the corridors of one's heart.

Shama Bhate

Ranjana Gauhar

Deepak Mazumdar

Every posture need not be tribhangis, every crouching need not be a chowk when Odissi is danced. Guru Ranjana Gauhar of New Delhi swayed through her two dance numbers with such élan that one wondered why we should expect Odissi to be only and throughout sculpturesque and sensual. Ranjana Gauhar's lyrical dance oozed with emotions of love, expectations of a beloved, the surrender to the lord while bringing him to mortal level and many hues and dimensions of spiritual bliss through act of romance, making her Odissi dance delicacy personified. Her youthful looks was further embellished by the traditional costume and jewelry. The choice poetry that Gauhar employed to unfold the aches and thrills of a nayika seemed to echo the very expressions that a mahari outpours in her solitary pleadings to Jagannath in the privacy of the sanctum. Young dancers draw attention with their command on the nuances of the art form, but Ranjana Gauhar's expressional dance captured the hearts of the rasikas.

When a dancer enters the stage, appearance gets noticed for the first minute and then the artistry for the rest of the evening. When Bharatanatyam Guru Deepak Mazumdar from Mumbai softly landed, his impish smile overruled the heavy contours, immediately enrapturing the onlookers' attention. The next half hour transfixed the prekshaka. The ease with which Deepak Mazumdar glides from one character to the other, with just a step and shift bewitched, the expressions that translated the lyrics was spellbinding, the subtlety in gestures that created imaginary space and ambience was captivating. The artiste gainfully employed in his Bharatanatyam concert, all his innate caliber in bringing out the navarasas as underwent by Parvathy when she encountered the yogi Shiva in his bedchambers on her wedding night. He transcended his own gender to unfold the complex feelings of a female character with such panache that even a female artist would feel bashful before him. The frolicsome Krishna pleading for a story of Rama as a lullaby, only to wake up in shock and calling out for Lakshmana and asking for his bow and arrow suddenly to realize that he re-lived his past life for a moment was enacted so profoundly that it was artistry at its best. Ramayana was retold in brisk yet gentle flashes with great finesse. Compared to the lightning speed performances of the young today, the performances by the seniors that evening was like a gentle rain with cool breeze in the monsoon, making a rasika say, “Thank god it did not rain.”