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Nalanda Nrityotsava Young Dancers Festival
- Vijay Shanker
Photos courtesy: NDRC

February 15, 2019

Nalanda Dance Research Centre (NDRC) organised the Nalanda Nrityotsava, young dancers festival at Ravindra Natya Mandir Kalangan in Mumbai from 11th to 14th January. On the second last day of the festival, Nalanda Bharata Muni Samman was conferred on veterans in the field of performing arts, Shanta and VP Dhananjayan for Bharatanatyam, Dr Prabha Atre for Hindustani classical music and Vikram Gokhale for traditional theatre.

Welcoming the audience, founder director of Nalanda Dance Research Centre and renowned Mohiniattam exponent Dr Kanak Rele said, "This is a festival organised every year to encourage young talent in the field of classical dance. This year we received several applications but we ultimately selected 21 dancers to perform in the festival which is a wonderful platform as many aspire to perform in this festival."

The awardees

The dancers who featured in the festival were Manava Bhagwat, Akhila Krishnan, SSR Koundinya, Devaki Rajendran, Tamanna Tanna, Sukanya Kumar, Varsha Dasgupta, Sandra Pisharody, Naveen Hegde, Priya Samarth, Unnati Ajmera, Sruthi Ashokan, Kankana Singh, Divya Bhat, Krishnakshi Kashyap, Kiran Ullal, Arunima Sengupta Basu, Atanu Das, Ruchi Krishna, Mitali Varadkar and Sunil Sunkara. The dancers who won Nalanda Nritya Nipuna title are Tamanna Tanna for Odissi, Sukanya Kumar, Naveen Hegde, Priya Samarth, Sruthi Ashokan, Divya Bhat, and Atanu Das for Bharatanatyam, Varsha Dasgupta for Kathak, Sandra Pisharody and Unnati Ajmera for Mohiniattam, Kankana Singh for Manipuri, and Ruchi Krishna for Kuchipudi. While Bharatanatyam and Kathak dominated, Sattriya dance and Yakshagana were also included in the festival.

The festival commenced with the pleasing Kathak performance by Manava Bhagwat, disciple of Rajashree Shirke. Manava danced the Jhaptaal in 10 beats to precision and enacted proshitabhatruka nayika in "Piya bina." Akhila Krishnan's Mohiniattam was pleasing for its expressional quality and elegant movements. SSR Koundinya's Kuchipudi was sparkling and noteworthy for its stylized movements He started his performance with an Annamacharya kirtana in praise of Lord Krishna and concluded with powerful display of Shivoham. With choreography by his mentor Raghu, this number was particularly striking for maintaining the distinction of movements, the graceful movements of goddess Parvati, compared to the vibrant movements of Lord Shiva.

While Sukanya Kumar's Bharatanatyam was praiseworthy for its striking and elegant movements, coupled with natural expressions, Unnati Ajmera's Mohiniattam created a lasting impression for its vivacious and graceful movements. Sruthi Ashokan performed "Theruvil varano" with commendable singing by Ambika. Sruthi is blessed with striking presence and her performance was brilliant. While Naveen Hegde revealed his command over the technique, Atanu too created a fine impression with his neat performance noteworthy for angashuddhi. The festival concluded with the tallest dancer of the festival, Sunil Sunkara, disciple of Renu Sharma and Pt Birju Maharaj. Sunil displayed his command over layakari with unusual taals like Brahma Taal, Vishnu Taal of 17 beats. He concluded his immaculate performance with a beautiful number in praise of the guru, "Guru ki krupa." Sunil performed with live orchestra. On padant was accomplished Kathak exponent Paullomi Mukherjee, vocal by Somnath Mishra and tabla by Amit Mishra. While most of the dancers performed well, some of them stood out for their expertise and dedication.

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