Milapfest presents Malavika in Manchester 
by Deepa Ganesh, Manchester 

May 14, 2004   

Milapfest, UK’s premier year round South Asian Arts Festival based in the North West of England, is celebrating Jhankar, a dance festival from February to November 2004.  This is being sponsored by the Arts  Council, England. In the earlier months, there were few other dance programs - Nina Rajarani’s Equilibrium, Gauri Sharma Tripathi’s Vyuha (The Square Circle) and  Sonia Sabri in a combination of contemporary dance and Kathak. Although there are more to come, the highpoint of Jhankar seems to be Malavika Sarukkai who performed at the Lowry on 9th May.
The master class that Malavika conducted was a valuable experience for the local students of dance. It is important to reiterate the basics to students, and Malavika stressed on these items. These things can never be repeated enough. Given the fact that the children were in awe of facing a teacher of Malavika’s stature (which was well explained by the organiser), when she stressed on the importance of Aramandi and Angashuddham, it came with renewed weight. Today’s generation is lucky that the gurus come and take workshops and master classes, as against earlier days when students had to not just go to the masters, but prove their sincerity and competence before they were taught anything.

Manchester was indeed looking forward to Malavika. I suppose the audience said it all. The program itself was structured intelligently with contemporary topics presented in traditional style. Following a nritya anjali, was spring as Kalidasa saw it in Ritusamhara with Manmatha busy at work!! Many in the audience could identify their own real life situations with the popular javali “Ni matale” (Poorvi kalyani) –“where are your promises…gone with the wind?” However the mood changed completely in the two pieces which followed – Yudhishtra's dream (in which a deer begs the former to stop hunting so that the animals do not become extinct) and Thimaka’s longing (a real life story of a lady who brings up an avenue of more than 250 banyan trees). The evening ended with Mohanakalyani thillana and Vande Maataram. Indeed the items were aptly chosen.

It was to be noted that the subtle lighting added a new, effective angle to Malavika’s portrayal of Manmatha at work. The Lowry is indeed one of the best theatres in the UK. Baghyalakshmi (vocal), Murali (nattuvangam) and Rajashekar (mridangam) gave good support to Malavika. Shikamani (violin) was brilliant. One could not ignore the mood created by his Shubapantuvarali and Vasanta phrases to name a few, thereby  reaffirming the importance of a  supportive orchestra.

It was a nice evening for Manchester – thanks to Milapfest, thanks to Malavika.

Bharatanatyam dancer Deepa Ganesh, student of Adyar Lakshman and Kalanidhi Narayanan, is the artistic director of Upasana.