Festival of Dances
July 29, 2006
It was raining and raining outside the Godrej Dance Academy Hall of NCPA on Mumbai's marine drive. And reigning inside the auditorium was the reverberating sound of the ghungroos of the dancers and recurring clapping of an enlightened audience.
The occasion was the 16th annual edition of the Raindrops Festival of Indian classical dances (July 19 & 20) mounted by well-known Kathak dancer Uma Dogra's Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts. The two-day event showcased six soloists in four styles-Kathak, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Odissi.
Does the Raindrops relate to Mumbai's monsoons in any way? "Rains bring hope and cheer to the earth for new creations. Raindrops presents young and promising dancers who also usher hopes for the future of the vibrant Indian classical dance scene," articulated Uma Dogra in her inimitable manner.
The festival kicked off with Mumbai-based Bharatanatyam-turned- Odissi dancer Sangeetha Rajan. A disciple of Debi Basu, one of the few Odissi gurus of the City, Sangeetha commenced her presentation with a neat presentation of pure dance – pallabi - set to raga Khamaj. It was followed by an abhinaya (dance of expression) number based on the 12th century saint-poet Jayadev's Geet Govind. The artiste attempted to portray an anguished and love-lorn Radha upset over a futile wait for Krishna throughout the night who turns up to her in the morning pleading plausible excuses much to the disbelief of the lady.
Switching over to the character of Krishna in the next episode, the dancer demonstrated how he wooed Radha after exploring all possibilities following which the couple had a dance of delight together.
A dancer of calibre, Sangeetha is gifted with the feminine grace that goes into the making of an amazing Odissi dancer, in the intensely lyrical style of her guru's guru - the legendary Kelucharan in particular. But to this reviewer who watched her during the recently concluded Kal Ke Kalakar dance fest in Mumbai, it seems she is a talent under-utilised. While she does not delve deeper under the skin of the character in abhinaya that restricts her spontaneity, intensity and clarity of emoting various bhavas, she needs to put in more force into her movements in pure dance numbers to bring out the best in her.
While her wonderful
team of young accompanists was amazing, one wondered why she included her
ghatam-player brother amongst her musicians. Did she and her choreographer
find the traditional percussion instrument of mardala inadequate to produce
the desired sound patterns? Or was it an experiment for experiment sake?
Both of them indeed need to answer.
Exhibiting unbound energy and enthusiasm, the dancer then presented a bouquet of traditional numbers in 13 beats. Her thaat, paran, toda, tihai and chalan showed how she has imbibed the best of talim (training) and riaz (practice). Special were her movements of the arms that literally pronounced the rhythms with perfect sync with the percussionist. The more she danced, the more delighted she looked - a rare trait discovered in dancers.
Preeti concluded with an impressive abhinaya number - karat solah singar - that described the preparation of an abhisarika nayika waiting for a union with her beloved man.
Singapore-based Kuchipudi guru and performer Siri Rama was the last performer of the inaugural evening who presented her invocatory number - mangal arati - in praise of Lord Ganesh in Marathi in an apparent move to reach out to the audience in Maharashtra. It was followed by jatiswaram in adi taal and an abhinaya number - Shiva natya leela –weaving the mythological stories attributed to Lord Shiva. She concluded with a neat presentation of the traditional dance on the brass plates, a unique feature of Kuchipudi style.
failed to appreciate the logic behind inviting such a senior dancer to
an event that is dedicated to the budding artistes.
of Lord Ganesh for an auspicious beginning in the traditional mangalacharan,
the artiste set the mood of the evening accompanied by the soul-stirring
music scored and sung by Laxmikant Palit, a popular musician of Orissa.
It was followed by yugmadwanda pallabi, a pure dance number that
was woven with wonderful rhythmic movements conceived by Ratikant Mohapatra
who has emerged as an innovative choreographer. Versatile vocalist Raghunath
Panigrahi, better known as the better-half of late legendary Sanjukta Panigrahi,
has been the music composer for this mesmerising number.
Mumbai's emerging Mohiniattam dancer Saji Nair impressed too. Groomed by the renowned Kanak Rele at her Nalanda Dance Research Centre where Saji has been a junior lecturer, this daughter of a Kathakali dancer-father also commenced with salutations to Lord Ganesh. But unlike her predecessors, her presentation portrayed Ganesh as an innocent child who looks at his father Lord Shiva’s head with a sense of wonder.
next presentation narrating the spring season- was drawn from popular Malayalam
literature Gatha Sapta Sati compiled by King Hala. Struck by the
Cupid’s arrows, the love-lorn nayika pleads with her man not to
leave her alone in such a season of love and union. Saji’s description
of the beautiful earth in spring in the language of dance was vivid and
quite convincing. And the artiste was at her best in her concluding piece
of abhinaya – Kubja, the hunch back lady in the court of King Kansa who
was transformed into a beautiful lady by Krishna. Music essayed a vital
role in the artiste's articulate portrayal of the exact emotions.
was dedicated to the memory of Kathak exponent Madhurita Sarang who passed
away a few months ago.
journalist with the Indian Express group, Shyamhari Chakra is a New Delhi
based freelancer writing on dance and culture. He is building up an archive
on Odissi dance in Bhubaneswar.