Grace and rhythm came across as distinct entities in the dance recital by Vaishnavi Sainath, daughter and disciple of Rajasree Sainath. Her performance was formatted to offer two different styles - Bharatanatyam in the first half of the evening and Odissi in the latter half. She did this with sufficient composure and without blurring the boundaries of each style.

The short Mallari in Gambheeranatai gave way to the varnam in praise of Krishna. Vocalist Srikanth and nattuvannar Srinivas (disciple of mridangam maestro Karaikudi Mani) aided by mother Rajasree were big positives on the orchestra.

Crisp theermanams found expression in the Bharatanatyam style as long stretches and silhouetted poses fused with the adavus. The tall dancer explored the stage well through her agile movements. Firm footwork and thattu mettus gave the item punch and vigour.

Yet, the keystone of bhakti in this Papanasam Sivan varnam was left largely unexplored. The expressions of admiration, bewilderment and wonder were presented transiently. The dancer’s ‘dialogue’ remained a mild request to the deity. Despite that, in her elegant green costume the dancer succeeded in presenting stylish Bharatanatyam.

The Odissi segment began after a complete change of costume, hairdo and make-up, particularly of the eyes. With Guru Durgacharan Ranbir on the manjira at the helm of the fresh orchestral team, the dancer entered the Rangbhoomi (the stage) to the lilting refrain of the Mangalacharan in ragas Pahadi and Malkauns.

The slokas were dedicated to Vishnu and then Kaali. The fearsome aspects of Kali were depicted keeping in mind the compassionate Nature of The Mother as well. Vaishnavi used her eyes and quick tiptoed movements to convey the aura of Mahakali. In this piece, the dancer depicted the twin moods of raudra and karuna. The sketch of the Goddess who beheaded a rakshasa was promptly followed with that of the Devi in her benevolent form.

The pallavi for the evening was the Basanta Pallavi. Vaishnavi described the attributes of the deity of the raga and detailed the coming of spring and the tender green shoots with fluid hastas (hand gestures). The entwined patterns of pure dance and sentiment were portrayed with confidence. Even though the heel movements and the tribhanga poses were delightfully done, the serpentine liquidity of the torso that is very much the hallmark of the Odissi style remained erratic.

The dancer’s potential in abhinaya unfolded with ‘Raase Hari Riha’, an ashtapadi where Radha recollects the bittersweet moments spent with Krishna. She tells her Sakhi of her plight and confesses her lasting love for Krishna in spite of his infidelity. Vaishnavi’s delineation of this ashtapadi was done clearly; she conveyed the past and the present with sensitivity. The heroine’s happiness with Krishna in the past was communicated without losing the latent sthayi and this revealed the dancer’s grip of the minutiae of bhava.

Moksha the concluding piece in Bilahari and Bhairavi was the crowning glory. The involved singing and the vigorous rendering on the pakhwaj gave the dancer momentum. She put her best foot forward and presented a feisty and smiling Odissi performance that ended with benedictions to all.