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Dancers dazzle at Swami Haridas Sammelan
- Vijay Shanker

December 4, 2018

Ramli Ibrahim and Geetika Sree
Sur Singar Samsad and Bhavan's Cultural Centre on the occasion of 80 years of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and 60 years of Swami Haridas Sammelan, organised the Swami Haridas Sangeet Sammelan of classical music and dance at the Sardar Patel Sabhagriha, Bhavan's campus, Andheri west, Mumbai. The twenty one day festival commenced on 10th November and concluded on 30th November.

The top dancers featured in the festival are Ramli Ibrahim from Malaysia, Amusana Devi, Sinam Basu Singh, Guru Shama Bhate, Ileana Citaristi, Gajendra Panda, Saroja Vaidyanathan and Dakshina Vaidyanathan Baghel, Geeta Mahalik, Shyamala Surendran, Roja Kannan, Dr Uma Rele, Pt Rajendra Gangani, Ruchi Sharma, Sujata Nair, Divya Madhavan, Malti Shyam, Sangeeta Das, B. Banumati, Pt Rabindra Atibudhi, Debi Basu, Nandita Puri, Keka Sinha, Dr Manjiri Deo, Kashmira Trivedi, Saji Menon, Pt Kishan Mohan Mishra and Pt Ram Mohan Mishra, Mysore Nagaraj, Deepak Mazumdar, Vyjayanti Kashi, Guru Mayadhar Raut, and Jayantimala.

The festival commenced with the captivating Hindustani musical symphony by pianist Deepak Shah and his group of 25 talented musicians. The first senior dancer to ascend the stage was Ramli Ibrahim from Malaysia. It was after a long time that I had the privilege of witnessing the exquisite Odissi performance by Ramli and his talented disciple Geetika Sree. Director of Sutra Foundation, Ramli has devoted his life for the promotion and propagation of Odissi style for more than forty years and has been bestowed with the prestigious title 'Datuk' by the Malaysian Government. Ramli and Geetika commenced the performance with Mangalacharan paying homage to Lord Ganesha and also interpreted the Narasimha avatara, the Sthayi similar to the Pallavi exposed typical stylized movements with the inclusion of the chauka and the tribhangis. Ramli danced with elegance, poise and precision, well complimented by Geetika. Combining the Tridhara style of folk, tribal and classical elements, Ramli and Geetika enacted the Navarasas and Dashavatara with dramatic appeal.

Amusana Devi and disciple Sinam Basu performed Manipuri incorporating the khandita nayika. Radha waits and Krishna arrives in the wee hours of the morning with tell-tale marks on his body. She is enraged and disappointed, but Krishna falls at the feet of Radha and they dance and unite again. It was a pleasant surprise to see the veteran dancer Saroja Vaidyanathan dancing in Mumbai after a long lapse. Saroja interpreted Shankaracharya's Pancha akshara shlokam incorporating the varied manifestations and glory of Lord Shiva with commendable abhinaya. Lingaraj's Shringara Lahiri was performed by Dakshina Vaidyanathan with wonderful control of technique and excellence in expressions. Saroja's interpretation of the other woman was well received in the number "Bhajana mana Rama charana sukha dayi." The audience was thrilled to see Saroja dance with comfortable ease and dignity. The varied episodes of Ganga, Kaikeyi and Ahalya were well enacted with exquisite abhinaya.

Shyamala Surendran with her Dharani ensemble

Shyamala Surendran and her group Dharani performed "Yahi Madhava" and Bagesri Thillana in the Mohiniattam style displaying control over technique and expressions. Their performance was noteworthy for its elegance and lyrical quality. Roja Kannan of Chennai performed the Dashavatara with fine command over abhinaya and movements.

It was quite exciting to watch three dancers from different styles coming together and performing with fine synchronization. Ruchi Sharma performed Kathak, Sujata Nair performed Swati Thirunal's "Chaliye Kunjan" in Mohiniattam style and Divya Madhavan performed Bharatanatyam. The three dancers performed in the invocation of Lord Ganesha and also in the Thillana which was performed with precision and coordination.

Nalanda dancers

Dr. Uma Rele and Nalanda dancers performed Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Mohiniattam in 'Vitthala Tuzhe Charani,' a beautiful composition in Marathi praising the Lord and also incorporating the Dashavatara with dramatic appeal. They began with a traditional Ganapati Vandana in all 3 styles followed by the soulful abhanga "Ghanu vaze" where the devotee wants to be with her Lord and she feels that even her reflection is that of Krishna. Post this, the concept of 5 gaulanis being teased by Kamadeva in the jatis, totally lovelorn and mesmerized by their Krishna was depicted where all the gopis around them wonder in amazement regarding their selfless involvement with Krishna. Tukaram's abhanga "Aata kuthe dhaave mana" was total sharanagati at the feet of Vitthala. The Dashavatara was performed in a crisp style followed by a tarana as the finale piece. The performance was well appreciated.

Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.