The classical blended with a spectacular visual drama was riveting.
A classical performance – be it music or dance – is called so as it bestows an experience of joy which is neither entertainment nor enjoyment. Ananda Shankar Jayanth's dance churns in the viewer, an aesthetic experience or what is termed ‘rasa' which has become a rare commodity in performing arts of late.
It was a brief, quick-paced presentation, going by the occasion at HICC, but had a lot to offer in terms of quality and beauty of Bharatanatyam. There was a sequence which is the hallmark of Shankarananda Kalakshetra's choreographies: Here the Surya namaskar or ode to sun, made for a brilliant opening with Ananda and ensemble (in red and yellow costume respectively resembling the hues of the sun) paying obeisance to the Sun god with a Rig Vedic hymn.
The seven dancers symbolic of seven horses or beams of the Sun did the Surya namaskar bends in an artistic fashion while Surya (male dancer Janak Raj) dressed in white dhoti with a vermillionangavastrathrown over his shoulders, holds the mudra that speaks of his identity as he dances along standing across the group invocatory. The dancers form into a seven-horse-drawn chariot on which Surya rides - this part was the most appealing in terms of dance as well as creativity.
The Dasavataram from Jayadeva'sGita Govindamhad its flashes of brilliance too: the picturesque churning of the milky ocean, where Janak Raj in the centre represented the mount that was used as a girdle used to churn while the other dancers enact the churning on either side; so too the delineation of Vamana avatar where the act of pushing out Shukracharya by Bali was done in personification mode – a very minute act, but noticeable in terms of detail in choreography; the Rama-Ravana battle and the last avatar of Kalki where Ananda is seen as the avatar riding the horse personified by Janak Raj.
It was not just graphic details, every avatar was introduced with optimum footwork within the timeframe and the summing up of all the avatars was even more pictorial.
The Shivoham traced the Shiva-Shakti principle at different levels beginning with the cosmic dance of Shiva to striking footwork patterns executed with perfection by Janak Raj. Measured footwork to torrentialjatiswith agile moves made for a wonderful Shiva natyam while Parvathi (Aparna Sharma) enters later with an equally vigorous dance pattern, but laced with grace.
The dance together and the fusion of both into the Ardhanareeswara (concept of unification of nature and divine) to the sloka,champeya gowri sareerakaya…was done with a finesse: the element of pure dance blended with the esoteric connotation and inference thereof. Aparna and Janak Raj moved in tandem to every syllabic cycle that was being spelt out, one personifying potency and grace while the counterpart displayed an imposing dynamism in keeping with the male-female principle in the universe.
The second part of the performance had the Kuchipudi repertoire in brief concluding with the fantasticSimhanandini. The popular plate (tambalam) dance toNeela megha Shyama…went well with the expat audience.
TheSimhanandiniis a peculiar dance form that focuses on the elongated tala and also culminates in the dancer drawing a figure of the lion with her feet, on a cloth covered frame with something close to colour chalk powder which spreads evenly into a full-sized head of a lion. Ananda did this as a solo piece, not extensively as the raga merits but a crisp one and the drawing was put up on a magnified digital screen for the audience to see how exactly the artiste went about with it. Renuka Prasad on the nattuvangam was his usual best. Saikumar on the violin was good while T.P. Balasubramanyam on the percussion was compelling.
Though for most part Venu Madhav on the vocal was melodic, at times he fell into pathos over a line, when the lines actually merited a lofty tone (for instance:vijayete Gopala chudamani). One cannot ignore the vocalist even if it were a dance performance.