Chennai January Season performances 
by Lalitha Venkat, Chennai 
Photos: Lalitha Venkat 
January 11, 2004 @ Krishna Gana Sabha 

Navarasa – the Expressions of Life, dance drama by Ananda Shankar Jayant and group, Hyderabad 

Ananda Shankar Jayant and the Shankarananda Kalakshetra ensemble presented their latest production Navarasa - Expressions of Life, set to music by Prema Ramamurthy. A graduate of Kalakshetra, Ananda uses her training to adapt herself to modern themes in solo and group choreography. The evening’s performance was dedicated to the memory of Rukmini Devi Arundale, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year. 

In the context of dance, rasas are usually pre-mediated by a story, a lyric, theme or narrative, where each character gives expression to a bhava resulting in a rasa based on his/her role in the story. These rasas or moods can also exist in isolation and the concept behind Ananda’s work is to look at the rasas, based on abstract body movement without the support of a storyline or myth.  

“To exude the flavor of a particular rasa, nrittas and body kinetics have been choreographed to select ragas and swaras composed using the sthayibhava and suiting the sthayibhava of each rasa,” says Ananda. Select Sanskrit shlokas on Nava Rasa from the Natya Shastra were used. Through fabric, Ananda displayed the various rasas in the colors prescribed by the Natya Shastra.  

Each segment saw Ananda enter the stage with the fabric corresponding to the rasa portrayed. She hung the fabric on a stand - the only prop used - set at the far end of the stage, after which the other dancers would join her. Aiming to juxtapose contrasting rasas, she chose the order of raudra (red), bhayanaka (black), adhbuta (yellow), bhibatsa (blue), veera (orange), karuna (grey), hasya, (cream), shringara (green) and shantam (white). It was a compact presentation, without gaps in-between as one rasa quickly followed the other in smooth succession. The lighting in red, blue and warm yellow set the mood according to the emotion depicted.  

Ananda was accompanied by dancers Mamata Madireddy, Manjula Dorairaj, Aarati Ballepu and Sowmya. The music ensemble included R V Devakiprasad (nattuvangam), Venu Madhav (vocal), T P Balasubramaniam (mridangam), Saikumar (violin), Venkatesh (flute) and Sridar Acharya (percussion). Lights were by Kumar.  

Navarasa was premiered in March 2003 at the Fifth National Festival of Choreographies held in New Delhi. How does Ananda feel about performing in the December season in Chennai? “It is always special, it is where we all gather to validate one's art and the journey we have undertaken. Bringing Navarasa to the discerning Chennai rasika is exciting. Performing Gitopadesa at the Music Academy where nearly all the viewers know and understand the verses of the Gita was wonderful.”  

She recently choreographed a segment using classical dance for the inaugural ceremony of the first Afro-Asian Games where 120 dancers participated. Ananda was conferred the Kalaimamani Award on November 25, 2003 at Chennai.  She is the first dancer from Andhra Pradesh to receive this prestigious award.