Natya Sangraham camp at Thennangur brought together the seeker and the learned under a one platform.
Classical dancers live amidst shrunken artistic horizons with specialised disciplines lost in individual orbiting. The interaction with other disciplines need for broadening the creative mind to get few opportunities, particularly in the rat race of performance. That is why Narada Gana Sabha's Natyarangam initiative of mounting an annual three-day camp Natya Sangraham at the temple village of Thennangur, assumes special significance for young teacher/performers of Bharatanatyam. Natyarangam's greatest achievement is in involving an enviable line of resource persons who get to interact with the 30-odd young dancers. In an atmosphere where generally many established dancers make it a point to attend music performances, but with little return courtesy from musicians who unless involved as supporting artists for dance, are rarely interested in viewing dance performances per se, it was heartening to see the likes of T.M. Krishna and his wife Sangeetha Sivakumar interact with the dancers. Sangeetha demonstrated how ragas lie not just in the bald notes but in the linkage between the notes, and spoke of the dancer/musician interaction, particularly in interpretative dance.
Krishna, in the first session, concentrated on the mathematics of rhythm – reciting the sollus with changing accents and keeping talam at different speeds When a Sankarabharanam kriti is sung only in tune without sahitya, and the dancers are asked to respond to the music as they will, it is interesting to see a narrative emerge in each dancer's interpretation - perhaps the link with the word is too strong for a dancer to ignore.
Can conditioned responses be shed and movement become just an abstraction like the raga music, sans being guided by even an imagined word? What is meant by internalising the music both for the musician and for the dancer? Does the musician get swayed by the sahitya or just the raga? Or are the word and the raga one entity? Does the kalapramanam usher in its own mood? Would the same lyric sung slower or faster evoke a different bhava? These were queries posed by the experiment.
The interaction really came together at one point during Bragha Bessel's impromptu abhinaya as Krishna essayed on a stirring rendition of ‘Kaalai thooki.' Bragha's satvika abhinaya sessions were no less interesting, revealing how the smallest of punctuations in movement, along with change in speed could make the mood totally different.
Sudha Seshayyan's Vachika session went into detailed explanation of Arunagirinathar's Tiruppugazh verses ‘Muththaiththaru paththith thirunakai aththikkirai….' And more. It provided nuggets of information for young dancers, along with cross references.
As for C.V. Chandrasekhar's Angika workouts, a tattadavu, a ‘dhitithai' step, a tattumettu or even an arudi variation opened out nritta possibilities the average dancer does not often think of. Just as an exercise to perfect technique and lines, Professor Chandrasekhar's methods are invaluable.
Chitra Visweswaran's long session on Aharya concerned not with just make-up and costume colours, texture of material and fall but also touched on that essential area of lighting – which is often, along with lack of aesthetics in costuming, the bane of most performances. Starting each morning with Anil Kumar's Angika Yoga provided the best recipe for relaxing tired minds. What made the Thennangur experience unique was the ambience created by the delightfully maintained temple.