The veteran dancer was in total alignment with the core of her artistic expression.

To commemorate 45 years in the field of dance, Lakshmi Viswanathan dedicated an evening to ‘Bhava Bharatam-A Vintage Bouquet of Dances’ in memory of her Guru Ellappa Pillai. Drawing energy from her experience and strength from the art of abhinaya, the dancer took the viewers on a classical journey, pausing to savour ‘Theruvil Varano’ at one stop or ‘Sakhi Prana’ at another stage through a collection of popular padams and javalis.

A prayer offering for the song ‘Paramapurusha’ set the tone before the dancer moved on to her familiar terrain with the ninda stuti ‘Ettai Kandu’ in Kalyani. The disdain which Lakshmi showed while portraying the attributes of Siva in negative light, with a subtle undercurrent of humour coursing along the narrative, was a delight to watch. The focus then moved to the gopis complaining to Yashoda about her son Krishna’s pranks in the evergreen ‘Thaye Yashoda’ in Thodi. The song was presented in a new avatar with an interpolation of another song of Oothukadu Venkata Kavi in Mohanam, ‘Illai Illai Illaiamma’ where Krishna denies all the accusations. This jugalbandi worked well with both the ideas and the ragas blending seamlessly without being contrived, and the dancer slipped into the contrasting roles with ease.

Shringara rasa unfolded with the Annamacharya padam, ‘Palukute’ where the dancer’s picturisation of the sakhis who are discussing the heroine’s tryst with the lord, was understated without any overt gestures… it was shringara bhakthi at its best with the depiction of the aalinganam of the nayika and the lord, merging into one another in sublime bliss. It was a continuous flow of beautiful vignettes – the woman drawing the kolam and then dusting the hands on the sari pallu in ‘Theruvil Varano’, the envious and sarcastic woman in ‘Aduvum Solluval’, the Raaslila in the Ashtapadi with a beautiful portrayal of the feathers of the peacock fluttering in varied speeds.

Dharmapuri Subbarayar composed the javali ‘Sakhi Prana’ in admiration of Veena Dhanammal’s art, and when she heard this composition, she responded by saying this song was much more worthy than gold and diamonds. Lakshmi immersed herself so totally into the song that her abhinaya brought tears in the eyes of the rasika. A salient feature of this performance was the use of only her mukhabhinaya to communicate the essence of each song to the rendering of just the first line of the pallavi, something rare in performances today.

If only more young dancers were present that evening, for they could have benefitted by learning finer nuances of abhinaya from a veteran.

It was indeed an evening of great aesthetic delight with the dancer in total alignment with the core of her artistic expression.

The musical team of Bhama Viswanathan, Chitrambari Krishnakumar, Mayavaram Shankar, Mudicondan Ramesh and Ramana enhanced the mood of the show with their sensitive support.