Young dancers from across the country make the festival of Classical Dances of India memorable.

Indian culture manifests itself as a variety of arts which imparts a rare exalted character to our nation. When the youth becomes a part of invigorating these arts; the nation can only attain sublime heights. The Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, which is rendering yeoman's service in preserving and promoting the vast heritage of India's diverse art forms, presented the Nritya Pratibha in Vishakhapatnam from April 5 to 7, in collaboration with the Visakha Music and Dance Academy. The festival showcased a variety of classical dance forms of the country and their emerging talents; especially from South India.

It was refreshing to see the youth put up sterling performances with a high degree of virtuosity, involvement and self assured command over their subject. Ayona Bhaduri from Kolkata opened the festival with a Mangalacharan choreographed by the Odissi legend, Kelucharan Mohapatra and concluded with a vivacious presentation of a refreshing choreography, Katha Surpanakha by Sharmila Biswas, which made for a riveting narration of the tale of Surpanakha. Ayona's poise and self assured ease spoke of the excellent training at Nrityagram and also under Sharmila Biswas.

Parvathi Menon from Chennai put up an elegant Bharatanatyam recital replete with crisp footwork, graceful carriage and an unhurried still centre to her performance. She won appreciation with her Swathi Thirunal Keertana Shankara Sri Girinatha prabho choreographed by Leela Samson and made bold to attempt a Javali Prana sakhuduu itu jesene depicting the plight of a heroine forsaken by her lover for another woman. The abhinaya based number was welcome in view of “fast pace” being the mantra of choreography nowadays. The Kalakshetra product stood out thanks tothe excellent training imparted at the institution which deeply moulds the artist.

Trained at the Kerala Kalamandalam, Lonisha Vijayanath from Ernakulam, accompanied by talented young musicians, made a mark with a competent execution of an interesting varnam depicting the angst of Gandhari at her unhappy marriage and her slain sons and her rage against Krishna whom she holds responsible for her miseries. Aditya Bulli Brahmam from Vishakhapatnam drew the interest of the spectators with his racy Kuchipudi recital replete with a confident command over the technique. The energetic recital with scintillating rhythmic cadences was embellished by the suave mnemonics of his mother and Guru, A. Bala Kondala Rao.

Hemolata Devi, a product of the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy excelled at nritta (pure dance) and was accompanied by excellent vocals and orchestra. Kalamandalam Abin Babu trained at the Kerala Kalamandalam put up a competent performance accompanied by an outstanding young singer and music ensemble. However, the performance slot of 30 to 40 minutes is inadequate for a Kathakali performance to make an impact.

A. Akhila gave a good account of her skill in the pure dance element of Andhra Natyam to a brilliant rendering of mnemonics and nattuvangam by her Guru and father Kalakrishna. She could do with a little more involvement in her performance. Sneha Devanandan, a disciple of Ashok Kumar and Padmini Ramachandran displayed great stage presence and poise in executing the racy choreographies with a myriad of poses and would do well to bring in an element of tranquility to her choreographies. Mridusmita Das, a disciple of Indira P.P. Bora and Ramakrishna Talukdar was graceful in her Sattriya presentation.

The Chhau Kendra put forth the well trained and lissome Sushanta Behera in an excellent Mayurbhanj Chhau performance, “Sabartoka,” depicting the hunter at his work and his joy after hunting the tiger. Abinash Kabi and Chandra Narayan Mohanti presented the ethereal “Radha Krishna,” and mesmerised the audience with their well chiseled graceful movements which brought to life the masks used in this Seraikella format of Chhau. The other young artistes featured were Kuchipudi dancers Vedantam Siddhendra and Bhagavatula Soumya, the Nangiarkoothu artiste, T.R. Saritha and Namrta Pamnani, a product of the Kathak Kendra, New Delhi.

The festival left one gratified at the savoir-faire of the youth of classical dance which can emerge, only from a deep rooted bond forged with our culture. One now wishes for the youngsters to internalise the finer nuances and essence of the classical dance and transcend their focus on technique. The single minded stress on the pure dance element and the whirlwind pace of their presentations needs to be supplemented with nurturing their emotive skills and bringing in an element of “serenity” to their performances. One also hopes that as the youngsters mature in the art form, they are able to negotiate the pitfalls of the glitzy promotion and performative stress, now seen in classical arts, which at times is aimed only at attaining stardom.