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Dancers excel in the Nayika Festival
- Dr. M. Surya Prasad

April 20, 2019

Whatever veteran and dynamic exponent of Kuchipudi natya, Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi does, novelty, chic and tidiness will be the reigning factors. At least three unique dance festivals are curated by her in a year. Supported equally well by her daughter and disciple Prateeksha Kashi, these festivals are sometimes held outside the city of Bengaluru also.

The latest one and the sixth edition of 'Nayika,' a symposium and dance festival held in connection with the International Women's Day under the banner of her school Shambhavi School of Dance at Shambhavi Dance Theatre, Bengaluru, was a definite pick. It was aimed at highlighting and documenting the rich contributions of the most popular and expert gurus of Karnataka - Late Guru Narmada, Late Guru Padmini Ramachandran and the living legend Guru Radha Sridhar who was honored with the Natya Shastra Award for her continued contributions to Bharatanatyam.

Three prominent students of the above gurus were asked to speak about the greatness, personality and contributions of their mentors followed by the presentations of a few signature choreographic works of their gurus. The speakers could have done well by dwelling upon the distinctive traits, eccentricities, idiosyncrasies, if any, style and techniques of their gurus to make their speeches more interesting and exciting. After the presentation of the Natya Shastra Award to Guru Radha Sridhar, her favourite student and multi-faceted disciple Aishwarya Nityananda paid rich tributes to her guru. Aishwarya enumerated the works of her guru with a small note on them.

Blessed with an attractive stage presence and brimming with expertise, Aishwarya Nityananda regaled the audience with her immaculate laya and artistry. And there was her reverence for her medium. With a steely resilience, she seemed to be interested in movement and clarity and finding logic in the vignettes. The detailed elaboration of the varnam exhibited her intent on inching closer to a shining side of her artistry, character and drama. The 40 and odd minutes' exposition brought out the best of Aishwarya in the complex nritta, nrithya and abhinaya segments. She was at ease in the quick transformations of roles.

Aishwarya Nityananda

Soundarya Srivatsa

Kirti Ramgopal

Tall and well-built, Dr. Soundarya Srivatsa gave an intimate account of her interactions with her Guru Narmada. She recalled her interesting moments with her guru especially during her rangapravesham. Soundarya began with Jaya Janakiramana followed by a Todaya Mangalam (Annamacharya krithi, raga and tala malika). She drew the grandeur and greatness of Devi on the basis of a famous krithi Janani ninnuvina set to Reetigowla raga. The nritta annexed to it was demanding. The dancer could traverse them with Úlan and the anga shuddhi was exemplary. Her abhinaya was of a class when she sketched the varied forms of the Mother Goddess. The specificity and clarity combined with dedication to detail and form was commendable. She concluded with a padam Yettanai sonnalum in Saveri raga. Her refined abhinaya effectively retold the tale of a mother rebuking her daughter who has left her husband after quarrelling with him. She advises her daughter to patch up her differences with her husband and to live a happy life with him.

Seasoned dancer Kirti Ramgopal recalled her intimacy with her Guru Padmini Ramachandran. She enumerated several anecdotes of her close association with her guru. She explained how Guru Padmini was meticulous not only in imparting training but also in choreographing and presentation of a program. Kirti's Power Point presentation was useful.

The fast-paced invocatory dance was lively with the precise rendition of chollukattus intertwined with the lyrics. Both nritta and abhinaya components shone forth in Kirti's execution. A varnam set to Hindolam raga was created by noted vocalist, late Jahnavi Jayaprakash, by taking some verses from Sri Krishna Karnamritham. Accordingly, Vadane navaneetha gandha, woven around the beauty and leelas of Sri Krishna was explored in the recreation of Krishna's greatness. Kirti was at home in the nritta, nrithya and abhinaya of the demanding composition.

Dr. M. Surya Prasad is a tri-lingual music and dance critic of Karnataka, scholar, organizer, educationist, researcher and translator.