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Dance in the family
- Lata Surendra
Pics: Madhusudan S. Menon

August 20, 2019

'Dance in the Family' presented on July 26, 2019 in Mumbai had iconic performers highlight the Guru-Shishya tradition within the folds of the family. Conceptualized by Vyjayanthi Kashi, 'Dance in the family' showcased duos in three styles and the names had the NCPA's Experimental Theatre gather an audience, who braved the monsoon and awaited the unfolding with the anticipation of seasoned rasikas who were well aware of the calibre of the performers - Madhavi Mudgal and Arushi Mudgal, Rama Vaidyanathan and Dakshina Vaidyanathan, Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha Kashi, in the order of their appearance.

Madhavi Mudgal and Arushi Mudgal

The evening came to life with salutations to the invocatory god - Ganesh Vandana by the charismatic Arushi Mudgal, the talented, agile and young Odissi dancer, niece and disciple of veteran Madhavi Mudgal and who has received guidance from the legendary maestro Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Bharatanatyam exponent Leela Samson. With her easy flowing grace she effortlessly etched the endearing form of the energetic dancing Ganesha. An inborn aptitude, ongoing artistic exposure and the aesthetic environment in the home front, all added up to a reaching out that mirrored a practiced ease, fast on its way to being another Mudgal to reckon with in the scenario of Odissi. The climax of the item with the usage of cymbals and flowers set the stage for the consummate exponent Madhavi Mudgal's reaching out. The subtle eloquence of Odissi was established through her gestures, through the poetry of eyes seeking Krishna, through the soulful yearning for the timeless in the Surdas Pada - Bin Gopal bairan bhai kunje. From 'becoming' to 'being' is a journey where the dancer is all that she describes and draws all to journey with her through the unfolding creative pathways. The niece and aunt duo was an interesting and beautiful blend of undaunted energy on the one hand and a pulsating stillness on the other that was markedly etched in the Bhairavi Pallavi. The sensuous kinesthetics of the dance form, sought expression in the answering responses of two artists, unfolding patterns of stillness and movement, through interesting cross-rhythm patterns. Together their dancing feet brought to life chords (in the music that appealed throughout their performance capsule by Madhup Mudgal) draping them in curves, circles, lines ever so characteristic of the sculpturesque dance form and at the same time assimilate the blend of contemporary ability and refined classicism!

Dakshina and Rama Vaidyanathan

From Odissi to Bharatanatyam was a step away and it had the mother- daughter/ disciple duo Rama Vaidyanathan and Dakshina Vaidyanathan. Dakshina has been endorsing the extensive training imparted unto her by her Gurus Saroja Vaidyanathan and Rama Vaidyanathan and standing out as a committed dancer all set to be recognized as an artist in her own right and yet endearingly exultant in being the third generation dancer in her family .

Dakshina opened her performance by propitiating the aligner of all oddities -Ganesha. Her pleasant innocent unguarded appeal and energy suited the choreography in Ganapathy thalam. Ganesha playing the mridangam with his father Lord Shiva dancing the tandavam was very beautifully brought out by the dancer. From invoking Ganesha, the mood shifted to the lovelorn heroine pining for her lord by Rama Vaidyanathan whose rich intensity, range and mastery never fails to make a deep impact on viewing hearts. A dancer whose dance weaves splendorous visual symmetries in space, whose balanced lines, diagonals and strides align each viewer to that harmony gathered in etching the intangible with the tangible, through the geometric precision that is Bharatanatyam. She reached out with her 'lament to birds' with the ease and experience of an artist aware of her idiom and who had the pulse of the audience at heart. As the lamenting heroine, she addressed one bird after another finding in each a semblance of the lord within the very penury of her heart - Lord Vishnu. With eyes that sought him alone everywhere, that mirrored and enframed him in all existence, herein was a lament that had all hearts seek to go forth and champion her cause. At some points however, one truly wished that the lament was not distracted by overstressing the visual representation of the birds. The lofty Thyagaraja kriti in Hindolam - Samajavaragamana - wherein the saint addresses the lord as the one adept in the nectarine music born of Sama Veda, was once again more of a coordinated exposition that did not compliment the ornate soul-stirring reaching out of the saint. But then once again, one can say that the visual complimenting of the two were ever so arresting in the patterns they wove and in the manner they complimented each other that the dynamics they evoked in space left a lasting impression on the audience.

Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha Kashi

The evening concluded with the representation of Antaranga-Taranga by the iconic performers of Kuchipudi, Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha Kashi. The choreography showcased Vyjayanthi herself as Bhumi, the sutradhar and an embodiment of motherhood, and beautiful Prateeksha Kashi as her daughter Sita. The entire thread of the choreography linked through a well scripted English narrative, had Bhumi reminiscing about the various episodes of her daughter Sita's life. Sita swayamvaram, her abduction, her reunion with Rama and the aspersions over her chastity, leading to their separation again were dealt with intense and powerful performances. The seven steps and vows in the swayamvara episode was evocatively choreographed by Vyjayanthi Kashi known for her awareness, depth and usage of abhinaya and her cross cultural experimentation. The brief touching upon Sita playfully shunning the advances of Rama as he approaches her with lyrics that highlighted - "Do not embrace me with hands that have broken Lord Shiva's Pinaka Bow, for my Lord, that could be fatal!" - was very appealing in its fleeting and subtle placing. The poise and intensity of Vyjayanthi herself as Bhumi, balanced and complimented by the elegant and chaste delineation of Sita by Prateeksha had the audience relate to a nouvelle approach to the oft-delineated epic by dancers of various styles.

Replete with abhinaya, a captivating script and a balanced delineation, the theme categorically summed 'dance in the family' with the heart-wrenching picture of Bhumi gathering an embittered, fatigued and world-weary Sita on her lap. Even as she caressingly gathered her daughter's woes in an embrace with the lighted shadows converging to a circle, one marveled at the universality of the Arts that transformed pain to sublime ecstasy and gave unto the soul, a voice!

The evening concluded with a post-discussion that quite summed up the truth of the arts that had each sing a song or dance the dance in their own way having imbibed the kinesthetics through a diksha that was not about a mentor creating a new entity but shedding layers and awakening each mould to their own potential. Kudos to Vyjayanthi Kashi for an initiative that highlighted the cycle of Parampara within the family tradition, if only to awaken all to the fact that rhythms unite all hearts in one cohesive beat and has heartbeats gather each other's pulse in unison, if only to embrace the One in All and All in the One!

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

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