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A Jathre of dancing moments
- Lata Surendra
Photos courtesy: Shambhavi 

February 24, 2019

Was it the charisma of the veteran Kuchipudi dancer Vyjayanthi Kashi, or her beautiful daughter Prateeksha, or the strength of their evident bonding with the team spirit of volunteers that made the Dance Jathre 2019 at Bangalore, such a memorable chapter to cherish? Being a part of the two-day festivity (Jan 26 & 27) of workshops, dance competitions, exhibition and evening performances by seasoned artists and winners of competitions alike was to be gathered in the bliss that was defined through dance, dancers and dance forms.

There was no mistaking the experience inherent in the perfectionist that Vyjayanthi Kashi is and her incessant quest to embrace it, through her concern for the right space, for the various unfolding events at the Jathre 2019. Her shining eyes and energetic form, taking stock of the space around and her vision for the two days, had us all treading the moonlit ground of Sankaraa Foundation on the eve of the festivity. I smiled at her shifting choices, seeking a final conclusion and the answers to which she ultimately found within herself, although she sought it from others! The posters, the stalls, the waiting space already coming to life in her relentless dialogue with herself, with all of us and the effulgent moon as a witness to an unfolding passion.

The dawn of the Jathre unveiled with the prelude set through invoking Lord Ganesha, followed by the ceremonious lighting of the lamp. There was an air of expectancy around, as restless feet awaited the moment when competitions, workshops and performances would endorse the purpose and meaning of each of their presence there.

As Kashi herself puts it, "There is no joy that empowers one like learning, exploring and understanding" and the day's workshops had a great start with renowned Bharatanatyam guru and exponent Geeta Chandran, awakening dancers to aspects of physical control, ever so vital to self control and the ultimate flowering of the body of the dancer - as a medium towards endorsing the allegory of the dance style and its didactic potency. Every workshop had maestros recount a turning point in their life and even as intense eyes drank in the arresting, energetic fastidious form that was Geeta Chandran, the walls around reverberated with her voice as she reached out. "As a dancer one is multitasking always to meet the demands of a demanding art form and I had to make a choice between my job and the dance…One was necessary to life and the other was my very life-breath. I opted for the latter and the decision carried me to all I am today."

I think it is these small exchanges that truly can motivate youngsters as they face the dilemma of 'to be or not to be' in their facing of the crossroads of aesthetics and survival. These little pointers are what youngsters would carry with them to anchor upon against the flux of life. In the small breathing space between workshops I moved out to the area outside, laced with lac-tinted feet in selfie modes or hurrying towards reaching out with their SELF in waiting competitions. Sensitive in her consideration I was truly touched by Vyjayanthi's concern for upcoming dancers because she had a dancer's wall displaying various Arangetram invites carrying the promise of tomorrow. A little away was the stall displaying ornamentations vital to the dance and dancer.

From Aharyam to Satvikam was a journey through competitions, workshops, photo exhibition, performances, stalls... It was sheer heaven on earth at the scenic Shankaraa Foundation. I espied eyes feasting upon the perfect moments of seasoned dancers and veterans in the photo exhibition of DANCE-SCAPES by the young photographer making distinct strides in the scenario of dance photography - Architect & Vastu consultant and a grade eight Trinity musician - Madhusudan S Menon. I asked him what he sought as he captured various dancers and styles and prompt came the reply, " To capture the perfection in movements that dancers give their very life-breath to. It is important that my still reflects that movement and the silence within the frame endorses a communion needing no words at all." I could hear strains of the Garba and my feet led me to the energetic and bubbly Bhumi Thakkar and the elegant and soft spoken director Trupti Bhupen from Samarpan School of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad.

Slide show

It is ever so interesting to have experts reach out with their styles ever so ornately. I noted with a smile how Trupti Bhupen kept emphasizing the word, regional style of Gujarat instead of the term 'Folk form' according unto it, its rightful regional flavor and essence. In fact the two workshops taken by the duo were received with spirited gusto by the classical dancers attending workshops at the Jathre. After the demanding classical workshop that preceded it, the lightness demanded from feet of waiting participants were a caress unto them. I have always felt that it is only when you attempt a new style that you become aware of your body-mind gap. Perhaps these workshops would help participants to become better rasikas as they received styles other than their own in future.

None felt the afternoon sun witnessing the joie-de-vivre all around. Against the music from pen-drives carrying the senior and junior competitor's destiny reaching out from multiple directions, I moved towards the flavors from the organic food stall, so sensitively put up by the nutritionist within Vyjayanthi Kashi. Steaming millet idlis, dosas, delicacies, had one witness the rhythms across counters. Bliss it was to have the Bengaluru coffee warmly caress the throat as one laced it with idli and chutney. A food counter where dancers converged actually transforms to a converging point to discuss and set up so many waiting bridges in future that soon it was time to move on to the choreography workshop by Bengaluru's very own Mayuri Upadhya and an interesting Natyagraphy workshop by Vijay Madhavan from Chennai. All too soon it was time for receptive feet aligning to the kinesthetics of Kathak through Anuj Misra's Kathak workshop followed by the gentle and poised Ileana Citaristi's Chhau workshop-Moving in space.

The evening performances by accomplished artists and veterans displayed the virtuosity and awareness of each. We had Odissi by Sharmila Mukerjee and group, Bengaluru, with aesthetically choreographed and synchronized pieces. A word of caution to imaginative choreographers, that they should sit with the light technician and discuss the complimenting of what is visually depicted. Grishma –Summer could have had the texture and lyrics taken into account while dressing it with chords. The lethargy of cupid in Summer and the damsels in terraces seeking to allay the heat with stringed music could have been complimented with the right tempo in music and choice of instruments. It was a little disturbing to see 'Prachand Surya' and 'forest fire golden as ever' with the mad raging pavana scattering it all around come out in blue and green wash or the summer night come out through amber!

Geeta Chandran's Anekanta already creating waves all around, explored the Jain philosophy of embracing diversity and accepting multiple truths. The well trained dancers of Natya Vriksha Dance Company did justice to the choreography that came to life with the music by Geeta herself in collaboration with K. Venkateswaran, Dr. S. Vasudevan. What stood out was the rhythmic interlacing by K. Sivakumar and Lalgudi Ganesh brought to life by the dancers. From the Alarippu in three speeds to the 'Seen and unseen' depicted through Dikshitar's Maye, to the wooing of 'sound and silence' in Jati Vistar and then to the climax highlighting Annamacharya's kriti "Yeta matra muna evaru dalachin" the audience was spellbound. Arjuna's discovering of the little known Viswaroopa of Lord Vishnu in forests of Odisha, in the form of a mythical animal Navagunjara, with head of a rooster, legs of an elephant, a tiger, a deer, back of a hump of bull, waist of a lion, serpent as a tail, peacock for neck and a human hand holding flower was very effectively brought out through the painting in the background and the well meditated upon dance choreography, leaving little to the imagination of appreciative viewers who applauded with their soul in answering response.

The evening concluded with Kathak by Anuj Mishra and Group, Lucknow, whose awareness of the kinesthetics of his idiom was evident in beautiful expressions, perfect hand gestures, and chakkars merited an applause that echoed into the charged night, setting the prelude to the day unfolding on Jan 27, 2019 with workshops interesting in their aesthetic and intellectual content.

We had Bengaluru's established Poornima Gururaju with her 'metaphor in dance' workshop stirring the awareness of participants towards aspects they otherwise take for granted and the accomplished Jayashree Rajagopalan from Mumbai with 'fitness through Shastra' workshop to align the physical with self control and then myself, highlighting the redressing of familiar rhythmic cycles, with an awareness of the inherent mathematics ever so intriguing and vital to the dance, dancer and dance-choreographer.

We had Priti Patel, an accomplished Manipuri exponent with her absorbing workshop throwing light on the various aspects of Manipuri dance traditions and the exhilarating martial arts form of Thang-ta. Her equanimity and grace and soft voice reaching out, drew all towards the misleadingly simple, yet 'difficult to tackle movements' that flowed through her persona ever so gracefully. Her evening performance 'Agni –the sacred fire' lit up the ambience of dance pervading across the Shankaraa Foundation sanctifying it absolutely. The Hindu God of Fire was invoked in all the three forms in which he is worshipped. Commencing with a prayer to Goddess Usha and followed by the ritualistic Agni Manthan when the holy fire is lit, Agni was shown in relation to the earth, water, fire and sky, and finally, as a purifier and destroyer of all evil. A combination of Vedic chants and ancient Manipuri rituals, along with the contemporary choreography of Manipuri male dance forms, specially Thang-ta, a martial art form brought together the Vedic and Manipuri traditions in a visual quilt ever so absorbing aesthetically.

'The magic of movement' workshop had Divesh Mirchandani drawing in the onlookers too into the workshop where he had all dance the Ghumar from film 'Padmavati' executed by Deepika Padukone. The energy kissed every dance performance in the evening as one witnessed the earnest performances by winners of the senior group competitions followed by a rare fusion of Karnataka Yakshagana and Mohiniattam by Krishnamurthy Tunga, Manjula Murthy and group.

Kuchipudi by Vyjayanthi Kashi and Shambhavi Dance Ensemble reached out with two unique productions. Vyjayanthi and her daughter Prateeksha, with students from their dance school brought alive the characters of Poothana and Krishna, and depicted the victory of the lord over the demon, with finesse. There is such depth in Vyjayanthi Kashi's abhinaya. Overflowing with the foil of evil and maternal love through subtle delicate expressions, she was absolutely one with the character of Poothana, as she starts nursing the Supreme God in the form of a baby, who was drawing out her very life breath. Her initial ecstasy and then her awareness of her mission in Gokulam, her writhing in pain before attaining moksha was executed with the finesse, grace and ease that remain the hallmarks of an experienced artist. No overt histrionics or melodrama but just enough expression to nail the moment of triumph in everybody's hearts.

Charismatic and alluring Prateeksha Kashi as Rudramma, in the next presentation did full justice to her character. The entire choreography was a kind of benchmark for people to become aware of whilst dressing any theme through form and content, the most important aspect being ending the performance at just the right time, where people long to see more.

May the rhythms stirred in the Jathre 2019 set the prelude to the next one poised and waiting in the wings of time. Even as I left the venue, I was full of the music coming through an exchange of ideas, thoughts, action and interaction. What makes dancers dip into time to share the timeless? What makes organizers stretch or ignore the dent in their pockets? What makes them seek this madness again and again? I watch the moon and espy the smile lighting up the night sky...I got my answer!

It is the same madness that has kept the art and artists and the 'artist in the man' alive through the times, adding colour to a jathre called LIFE!

Lata Surendra is a Bharatanatyam exponent, teacher, choreographer, curator, writer and Section President of the Official Section of International Dance Council, Mumbai-India.