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Gururaju impresses with artistry of movement
- Bhavanvitha Venkat

October 28, 2018

On 7th October 2018 Bangalore based Kuchipudi dancer Gururaju, disciple of Vyjayanthi Kashi, performed at Annamayya Sannidhi, Beach Road, Visakhapatnam. The program was organized by Tarakeshwar Foundation. The stage was the open theatre that has public view where the city converges for the weekend outing. Close to the venue are two popular tourist spots, airport and submarine museum. The performance started at 6pm just as the day ended and the marble stage glowed in the bright focus lights in the serene presence of Saint Annamayya.

Since it's an open theatre, artists arrive complete with dance costume and make up. The stage was covered with a carpet in order to avoid the moisture since it's close to the sea and the carpet was removed at the start of the performance. The chairs got fairly quickly filled up; the lighting and sound arrangements were good and the right ambience for a classical dance performance was established. Gururaju danced to pre-recorded music. All the six items performed by Gururaju were choreographic works of his guru, starting with Poorva Ranga Vidi and concluding with the customary thillana.

The invocation included performing pooja and offerings made to the performance area. The first item soon followed with 'Brahmanjali.' Coming next was "Jaya jaya jithavyari" in praise of Lord Ganesha by Tirtha Narayana Yati drawn from Krishna Leela Tarangini. In raga Hamsadhwani and set to adi tala, this item was nicely presented and the wonderful lyric and expressions set the tempo and soon there were no empty seats. Open theatres and stages really draw the audience quickly!

'Ramayana sabdam' (ragam Mohana, adi tala) in praise of Lord Srirama was a traditional item and as with Sabdams, the item flows through a narrative of the great epic right from his birth to the ascension to the Ayodhya throne. Using rhythmic passages in between the sahithya makes the item lively and brisk. The Shiva Stuti narrated about Lord Shiva's dance accompanied by an orchestra of Saraswathi playing the veena, Indira playing the flute, Lakshmi singing in her golden voice, Vishnu playing the mridangam and Brahma playing the cymbals.

After Stuti, Gururaju performed Tarangam, a piece unique to Kuchipudi where the dancer dedicates a section to dance on a brass plate. The song accompanying this number is from the well-known Krishna Leela Tarangini, a text that recounts the life and events of Lord Krishna. This dance describes the sports of Krishna, followed by a depiction of Raasaleela, his youthful mingling with the Gopis. A special element of skill is involved here. The different pada karmas are depicted in this item. This is set in ragam Mohana and talam adi. In this pure dance number to the chosen time cycle and a melody, a dancer executes patterns that reveal the beauty of the form. The performance concluded with Thillana, a composition of the celebrated poet Swati Thirunal (ragam Bhoopala, talam adi).

Gururaju's performance was diligent and mudras were well depicted and strikingly visible even if away from the stage to the last row. In Tarangam, his artistry of movement came out as at once deftly moving in quick-silver movements to the tune and synchronized to the musical notes. His movements were agile and postures precise. Dancers have to invariably get the measure of the stage and move accordingly which Gururaju was able to do pretty neatly in that he fully utilized the space in all directions. His talent was impressive that a retired vice chancellor of Andhra University, Sri Raju, requested and took to the stage with words of special praise. The choreography enabled clear display of the dancer's agility and there were times when he was making giant leaps that were visually aesthetic and seemed to beat gravity! However, he needs to work on maintaining momentum into the last item.

From here on Gururaju must get to perform choreographies that stand distinct and in that manner expand on the wide scope and potential available to him within the Kuchipudi repertoire. By performing more in previously un-toured geographical locations and further building on his experience to playing characters in dance dramas, surely he would reach the pinnacle of his potential. He is a prospective talent who could move to being one of the top performers in the male Kuchipudi circuit.

Bhavanvitha Venkat is a Kuchipudi dancer, writer and finance advisor for corporates.