Odissi, Bharatanatyam and Contemporary Dance inspired by a variety of forms gave Delhi varying flavours in the week gone by
Jyoti Shrivastava of the four Odissi dancers featured in Nritya Vilasa at Stein auditorium, mounted as a tribute to Guru Sudhakar Sahoo by Nritya Dhara, a Gurgaon institution, captured the audience through her sensitive abhinaya. Her “Krishna Milap” with a brief bhumi pranam and homage to Krishna’s charm through the verse “Kasturi Tilakam”, concluding with a truncated moksha, had its main component in the lyric in Khamas, “Kilo sajani keli kadamba mule”. The nayika, looking at the kadamba tree, reminisces with the sakhi about Krishna who romanced with her under its shade. With a kavit and ukkuta phrases strung into the main interpretative fabric, the dancer’s mukhabhinaya, along with immaculate sense of timing, showed how even expressional dance, for optimum effect, needs a perfect feel for rhythm.
Vani Madhav, a one-time disciple of Guru Debaprasad Das, now under Sudhakar Sahoo, in the simply choreographed Kalavati pallavi, gave an improved rendition of what one saw of her a few months ago. Her foot contact rhythm, though, needs more immaculate work and finish. The abhinaya lyric, Upendra Bhanja’s composition “Mano uddharana kara he karana”, communicated, despite the somewhat lokadharmi expression, in the opening line showing distressed human beings. It is amazing how much like one of this poet’s predecessors — Salabeg’s “Ahe Nila Sahilo” — this composition is, in both ideas, tune and metre.
Alpana Nayak, more known in her avatar as a worker with the specially abled, in “Vichitra varna” tried to paint a many-sided picture of the contemporary woman walking alongside her husband as an equal partner in life, exemplifying qualities divinised through verses on Durga, Kali, Mohini, Ahalya, Yashoda manifestations, tagging it with modern poetry like “Janani mu Janani” and “Kshama mor anya Nama.” The idea, simplistic in treatment, needed more subtlety.
That Anita Babu is a well trained dancer was obvious in the five scenes portraying sringaram, hasyam, bhayam, karunyam and shantam from the Navarasa through episodes based on the Ramayana. While the idea of Rama laughing at the disfigured Shoorpanakha is not quite one’s idea of the uttama nayaka, the sudden halts and changeovers were given a dramatic intensity.
Sahana Balasubramanya, now planning a PhD in Mathematics after her MS, shows impressive command over Bharatanatyam. Trained under Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan, her presentation at Tamil Sangam’s Thiruvalluvar auditorium in the Papanasam Sivan varnam “Unnai ninaindu ullam…” in Devamanohari displayed commendable control over both technique and expressional aspects of the dance. Apart from the araimandi, the central concern of Bharatanatyam movement grammar, the full leg and hand stretches revealed a neatness in the immaculately rendered teermanams. With a face capable of emoting, musical statements asking if Krishna is stone hearted (“Ullam kallo, Kanna”) were highly embellished, though one felt the overdone petulant anger could have included a little of the persuasive approach too. But that is a matter of opinion. The Pancha Kalyani Devi homage was also communicative. It seemed to take a great deal of persuasion to get Krishna to finally accompany the gopi to the Vrindavana kunj in Swati Tirunal’s Brindavana Saranga “Chaliye kunjanamo”. Madurai Krishnan’s Hameer Kalyani tillana provided the concluding note. With all her accomplishments Sahana as a performer needs that heightened animation in parts to bring in contrasts to what at present is like the placid waters of a very serene stream that needs the occasional ripples to make the audience sit up and take note. Time and experience will, one is sure, bring in the changes.
Another young talent, Priyanka Ravishankar, a disciple of Prashanti Natyalayam under Vasant Sridhar, at the Sai auditorium presented Bharatanatyam. For this critic both Vasanthi Krishna Rao’s vocal support — with all its melody, classical verities and verbal clarity — one is privileged to hear after years, and Vasanthi Sridhar’s competent nattuvangam were great plus-points of the evening. Gifted with a presence, Priyanka’s pushpanjali start in Gambhira Nattai in the foot contact in fractional intervals of rhythm lacked pinpointed accuracy. That this could be attributed to the need for greater balance and some starting nervousness was proved by the 13-beat alaripu which she rendered without blemishes. The jatiswaram in Saraswati raga in tala Roopakam, not very simple in the rhythmic setting, could have been at a slower pace to enable firmness of tala.
The Todi varnam “Roopamu Joochi” projected a dancer who has a flair for mukhabhinaya, which with time will get more streamlined. In this case too, for a more assertive quality instead of seeming to be running to catch up all the time, a slower pace would be very rewarding. That would impart a more enduring quality to Priyanka’s movements, which in those where hands trace a backward straight line or a full stretch tend to get slurred. “Mere to Giridhar Gopala”, the Meera bhajan rendered with involvement, was followed by the Paras javali “Smarasundaranguni sari evvare” where the swadheenapatika nayika, confident of her place in the beloved’s heart, needed to be more decisively brought out. Experience should bring in the fine tuning Priyanka’s dance needs.
“Just Dots” at the packed LTG Theatre was the highly energetic contemporary dance, Chhau/ Ballet mix visualised by Anil Panchal, under the sponsorship of the Natya Ballet Centre. The Centre, right from the time of Kamala Lal, its founder, has shown its high preference for innovative ventures. Built round the theme of man struggling to conquer his inner demons, till he finally finds that state of ultimate bliss as but dots in the inevitable journey of search for that final state of being, the production had well rehearsed, highly trained dancers. The sheer physicality of perfectly honed bodies could be seen right from the synchronised Mayurbhanj Chhau Hathya Dhara-influenced movements with bow and arrow and sword and spear. The somersaults, the leaps and cart wheeling and mallakhamb bodies and the way one body balanced the weight of another with improvisations being done, were brimful of nervous energy. The music, though, with superimposed raucous voices, seemed very confusing. Perhaps that was the idea of showing tortured minds! The shadow play and audio visuals were clever, particularly the questioning with all the scattered dots coming together in a query on the why of life and its trials. Panchal and his female partner in the Ballet/Modern dance-inspired scene, expressing the final point of non-duality in the male/female unity, were extremely competent. But the scene was overstretched. At some points, one felt that just body movement, no matter how well done, becomes repetitive.