Exquisite choreography, technical and abhinaya prowess marked the performances at the Natya Vedam Annual Dance Festival

The Natya Vedam Annual Dance Festival 2012 was organised in Bangalore recently by Deepa Sashindran as tribute to her guru Kuchipudi exponent Manju Barggavee. The second and concluding day of the Festival began with a thematic Bharathanatya recital by Gayatri Sriram, titled “Seetha Svagatham”.

The presentation was a portrayal of Seetha's recollections of past events, their causes and consequences, just before she is taken to the forest and abandoned there. Most of the major occurrences of the Ramayana, such as the wedding of Rama and Seetha, life in Panchavati, Seetha's abduction and so on were delineated from her perspective. Subsequent developments including the sojourn in Valmiki's ashram, and the birth of the twins Lava and Kusha culminate in the protagonist's return to Mother Earth.

Seetha came across as more woman than goddess, bearing a series of inequities with dignity and fortitude, and never once wavering from total commitment to her principles and to Rama. The predicament of the main character, who is with child at the beginning of the narration, lent a peculiar poignancy to the exercise. Multiple roles were donned with equal felicity and etched expressively and elegantly. Seetha's anguish after abduction by Ravana, fear and insecurity on desertion later on, and Lakshmana's torment when assigned the painful task of leaving Seetha in the forest, were conveyed effectively, yet succinctly.

Exquisite choreography with short nritta segments at appropriate junctures, and technical and abhinaya prowess, underscored steadfast adherence to grammar of the idiom. Excellent lighting, and outstanding orchestral support provided by Minal Prabhu (nattuvangam), Balsubrahmanya Sharma (vocal), Dayakar (violin), Jayaram (flute), and Gurumurthy (mridanga), enhanced the overall impact.

The second performance of the evening was by Ashish Khokar's Purusha ensemble comprising Satyanarayana Raju (Bharathanatya), Murli Mohan and Tushar Bhat (Kathak), and Lingaraj Pradhan (Odissi). Dancing to recorded music, the group paid obeisance to the remover of all obstacles with Ganesha Vandana, illumining the distinctness of each genre as well as the underlying unity in basic tenets. These were further highlighted in the ensuing solo items.

The Bharathanatya exposition of “Jaya Janaki Ramana” in ragamalika was marked by easy grace in the interpretation of the lyrics and technical perfection in the pure dance interludes. The kathak duet, a compact exploration of the intricacies of teen taal, incorporated diverse rhythmic permutations stamped out in perfect synchronisation. The sinuous grace of Odissi was once again emphasised in the succeeding solo, a paean to Lord Vishnu, which also drew upon the artiste's histrionic skills.

The concluding item of the Purusha Ensemble was a confluence of the Moksha from Odissi, the Tarana from Kathak and the thillana from Bharathanatya. Scintillating rhythms were presented in unison and separately, once again displaying perfect synchronisation and reaffirming the individual expertise of each dancer. More cohesion in the recording of the background score would, however, have augmented the appeal of the piece.

The Festival, which also featured Bharathanatya by Rama Vaidyanathan and Kuchipudi by Manju Barggavee on the previous day, concluded with Kathak and contemporary dance by Madhu Natraj's Stem team.