The Pt. Birju Maharaj-choreographed ‘Ritu Samhara' was an interesting blend of dance styles.
The concept of interpreting Kalidasa's Ritu Samhara, a poetic description of the six seasons, through six different classical dance forms, is an interesting one. Pt. Birju Maharaj has developed this idea into a production that was presented by 18 dancers at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.
As the percussion switched from the mridangam to the tabla to the pakhawaj in the introductory item, and the tableau of dancers came to life, three by three, one sensed the potential for a powerful performance. Ritu Samhara describes the effects of the seasons on Nature in general, and people in love, in particular.
Summer was depicted by Priya Venkataraman and her two accompanying dancers in the Bharatanatyam style.
Dressed in aesthetically synchronised costume, the dancers depicted Surya riding on his chariot and the wilting of plants and animals in the Grishma Ritu, with precise and elegant movements.
Varsha Ritu (rain) was performed in the Kathak style, the interpretation dominated by the chakkars of Pt. Birju Maharaj's choreography. Lead dancer Paromitra Moitra's finishes were underplayed and elegant as were the movements of the other two dancers, one of them being the only male in the troupe.
The musical score for early autumn (Sharad) was pleasing and interpreted in Mohiniyattom. Beginning with languid and flowing choreography by Jayaprabha Menon, the sequence nevertheless built up to a neat finish.
Bimbavathi Devi's exceedingly light-footed depiction of Hemanta Ritu (early winter) was delightful to watch. She managed to effectively combine the characteristically soft movements of Manipuri with a dynamism that made for captivating viewing.
The scenes were preceded by some dancers coming on stage to ‘ring in' the next season. The introduction to Shishira ritu (late winter) was effective, evoking images of warmth with the stoking of the fires. Performed in Kuchipudi with racy choreography, this ritu incorporated more group dynamism in the abhinaya than the other episodes, and was attractively done by Deepika Reddy and two other dancers, although the sequence on the plate at the end was rather hastily executed.
It was Vasant Ritu (spring) that really had the music, the mood and the dance coming together, with Parvati Dutta blending into the dance, making it an integrated whole. The movements of the other dancers were well synchronised with the music and the finish was executed neatly to the reverberating rhythm of the pakhawaj.
Drama did come through in the finale, as each of the lead dancers performed in turn to a kuraippu in the avartanams, and were eventually joined by the other dancers for the final muthaippu.
A larger stage might have made it more appealing visually, especially since, in the end, each of the groups was simultaneously performing different movements, albeit to the same rhythm.
The performance was marked by a seamless integration of highly varied dance styles and the 18 dancers who rehearsed for over three weeks, did a commendable job of producing a cohesive package from individually choreographed sequences.
The entire performance was short and sweet and there was balance in the time allotted to nritta and nritya. The abhinaya in the individual scenes, however, was sometimes a little simplistic, leaving the viewer feeling the poetry of the lyric could have been explored further.
On the whole, both the choreography and the musical score remained somewhat low key, making it a pleasing (though not powerful) experience.