There being only a few practitioners left of the Kandappa-bani of Bharatanatyam, better known as the ‘Balasaraswati style,’ such performances are not-to-be-missed occasions. Sushama Ranganathan, daughter and disciple of Nandini Ramani, well-known dancer-critic and torch-bearer of the dance style danced for the Dasyam Swati Nritholsavam Festival recently. Saturated with music and bhava, the recital combined the artistic abilities of the dancer and the understated aesthetics of the style she represented.
With little gestures like coming on stage before the song has begun and waiting for at least one avarthanam for the music to soak in, the dancer followed the earlier practice of readying the body and mind before the delineation. The traditional practices of emoting on both
sides equally, the forward and backward walking to rhythm during the emotive expansions, the steps that were restricted to a few square feet, the unhurried pace, were all in evidence. There was no fuss or embellishment, just the emphasis on correctness.
Surprisingly Sushama’s style did not look outdated; with strong fundamentals, expressive eyes and deep involvement, she was in fact arresting without making an effort to be so.
Sushama’s maintenance of the sthayi is perhaps one of her best virtues. Her whole body reacts to the music and mood. An excellent musical team that kept up the melody all evening (even during the jathis) was also responsible for maintenance of the mood. Speaking of mood, it was unfortunate that the descriptive pieces were all centred
on the viranhotkhandita nayika, who is suffering the pangs of separation from her lord: the varnam (‘Sa vaama rusha,’ Khamas, Adi) and the padams (‘Valaputhala,’ Atana and ‘Aliveni endu cheyvu,’ Kurinji).
There were of course different shades of soka expressed in the varnam there was jealousy of the ‘preferred’ woman and an element of martyrdom, while in the Atana padam, the heroine’s happy childhood memories gave the situation a more positive twist. The Kurunji padam on the other hand represented the nayika’s lament to her friend with the ‘long, black tresses’ that reflected a tormented, hopeless state. The presentation ended with a thillana (Anandabhairavi, misra chapu) with only the pallavi and the charanam presented. The haunting Yadukula Khambodi (‘Bhujaga Saayino’) for the mangalam completed the musical treat. The talented musicians who accompanied Sushama were: Chitrambari
Krishnakumar (vocal), V.V. Ramana (flute), M. Venkatakrishnan (nattuvangam), K. Venkatasubramaniam (mridangam) and Ganeshan (tambura). The credits for the dance composition: K. Ganesan (nritta), Nandini Ramani (interpretive portions) and Priyamvada (‘Aliveni’ padam).