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Parshwanath enchants with exuberance
- Mohan Ayyar
Photos courtesy: Madhuram Academy

September 29, 2018

Parshwanath Upadhye
Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts, Sydney, celebrated its fifth anniversary with two performances on 8 September 2018 at the Bryan Brown Theatre. The evening commenced with a short Kathak recital by five students of Sumati Lekhi from Sydney's Swastik Dance Institute. They performed a medley of three taranas popularised by Kathak stalwarts Sitara Devi and Pt Birju Maharaj. Both the dancing and the costumes were well coordinated. The main performance featured Parshwanath Upadhye from Bangalore dancing in the Bharatanatyam style. He commenced by consecrating the space with a Vinayaka kautuvam in Hamsadhwani which featured the Mysore jatis. His energetic and exuberant style was quite evident from the beginning as Lord Ganesha began to dance.

Swastik Dance Institute

The main item was the varnam "Devadi deva Nataraja" in ragam Shanmukhapriya which provides a bhakta's perspective on the Lord of Chidambaram. Parshwanath's sharp and precise movements were on show again during the opening trikala jati. In the first line (Devadi deva Nataraja Tillaiyil kuncitapadamudan adum), there were times where Parshwanath unusually depicted Lord Nataraja dancing with his right foot raised (usually only associated with Nataraja in Madurai). The highlight of the varnam was Parshwanath's depiction of the celestial orchestra (featuring Krishna on flute, Nandi on mridangam, etc) while Shiva's tandava was also captivating, especially when he traversed the stage in the mandi position.

Next, in Kanakadasa's "Enendaleyendalo," Rama laments the loss of Sita and imagines what she would have told Hanuman in Lanka, while in "Baro Krishnayya" a devotee meets little Krishna but is unsure if it was a dream. Unfortunately, these padams didn't have the same impact as the earlier pieces. The program concluded with Dr. Balamuralikrishna's gatibheda tillana set in a garland of 'priya' ragas. While this is indeed a very complex piece (each section in a different nadai), the constantly changing nadai somewhat detracted from the flow and aesthetics of the piece.

Bharatanatyam like all art forms is constantly evolving and Parshwanath is a striking example of the new energetic and popular style of the dance.

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