A mix of brilliant and mediocre presentations marked the four-day dance festival.

Vysakhi Nrityotsav, the third in the annual series of festivals of All India Classical Dance held for four days under the auspices of Nataraj Music and Dance Academy, was organised as usual at Kalabharathi, Vishakapatnam. The fest started with the presentation of Kuchipudi dance drama Nartanasala. Scripted, choreographed and directed by the principal of Siddhendrayogi Kalapeetham, Kuchipudi, Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry, it was not wanting in any aspect including the music set by D.S.V. Sastry. The nonchalant way the music was rendered and the abhinaya exhibited by all except Sastry who lived the role of Keechaka, could not sustain audience interest.

The second day evening began with a grand Odissi presentation by the disciples of noted guru Pitambar Biswal. Biswal is a third generation torch bearer of guru Debaprasad Das who made the age-old Odissi tradition renascent from the oblivion. Show of Dasavatara was the highlight. More elatedly replete with sublime classicism was the Kerala Mohiniattam presented by Pallavi Krishnan.

Ganesh Stuthi followed by a composition of Swathi Tirunal that visualises the love of a Nayika for Anantha Padmanabha Swamy by herself alone, remained the cynosure of the entire fete. Mayamohana Krishna, her own choreographic study in raga and tala malika presented along with her disciples picturesquely revealed Droupadi Maana Samrakshana, Gajendra Moksham and Geetopadesam episodes. The empathetic abhinaya in perfect harmony with congruently scintillating footwork was simply superb. Like Mohiniattam, the Vaishnavite Nata Samkeertan which got established later as classical Manipuri by about 15th century, opened up with Guru Bandana followed by Desavatara solo by guru Sinam Basu Sing. Nrithaprabandha and Basanta Ras were presented next by him along with his disciples.

Next was the equally enchanting classical tradition of Kerala, Kathakali, by guru Kalamandalam Sreekumar and his disciples who presented Rukmangada Charitam.

The next evening witnessed a Bharatnatyam recital by US-based Mallika Jayanth. In total disregard for the established format of exposition of the classical art, she presented two Dikshitar's compositions — Kanjadalayathakshi (Kamalamanohari) and Meenakshi (Poorvikalyani). But, however, she proved to be an artiste of high promise. The dance-drama Chenchu Lakshmi Nrisimhakalyanam was sans pertinent jatulu played on mridangam, Konagolu rendered orally and angaharas (combined rendering of jatulu and konagolu).

Feast from the North East

Sattriya classical dance of Assam derives it name from the monasteries called Sattras in which the exposition of the art started gaining popularity. With all its evolved ingredients of nrita, nritya and even natya improved with congruently incorporated aspects of Chauka of the Odissi and the Chakkar of the Kathak came to be known outside the state rather late and got recognised at the Sangeet Natak Akademi's seminar in 1958. Guru Sadhyapak Naren Ch. Boruah, now widely known for his innovatively refined choreographic works in the classical idiom of Sattriya, presenting them alone and along with his disciples created a scintillating mood in the auditorium.

Like Pallavi Krishnan of Mohiniattam, Alaknanda, founder director and Kathak guru at the Institute of Performing Arts established in her name at Nodio (1990), presenting Devistuthi all by herself and items like Thumri, Panchatatva and Meerabhajan along with her disciples created an ecstatic mood. Last day evening first featured Chhau that got popularised all over the globe by artistes of Eastern and North-Eastern parts of the country. As the word Chhau means shadow, Chayi in Oriya with its three derivatives in the colloquial idiom, Chhauri (armour), Chhauni (military camp) and Chauka (process and form of attack), it can be construed that the art had its origin in the war dance called Rookmar nacha or Phanikhand Khela. Since in recent times Chhau in its two forms, Sariekala (done wearing masks revealing the specific attributes of the physical appearance of the characters) and the Mayurbhanj without the mask, developed its vocabulary like the Topkas and the Uflis which when get combined give Bhangis. Adapting them scientifically, it got recognised as a classicial idiom by Sangeet Natak Akademi recently.

Internationally-acclaimed guru Pt. Gopal Prasad Dubey presented items like Mayur Nritya, Sabar (hunter) made it an engaging performance. Replete mostly with tribal fervour in all aspects of presentation, it sustained audience interest to some extent.

The festival concluded rather on a disappointing note with Bharatanatyam presented by Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala. Presenting dances for songs like Dinakara Subhakara (feature film Vinayaka Chavithi), and some compositions of Annamayya and Kadanakuthuhalam Thillana rendered for recording companies and television channels (sans any angaharas) proved to be an apology for the highly-evolved Bharatanatyam.