Jyolsana Menon's quiet ability and expressive eyes are her strength
The warm April evening at the Open Air Theatre in Kalakshetra resounded with melody as Hariprasad (vocal) began with a Hamsadhwani kriti, (‘Vathapi Ganapatim') shadowed closely by Sashidhar (flute) and supported by K.P. Anil Kumar (mridangam) and Ananthanarayanan (veena). Faculty-member Jyolsana Menon's Bharatanatyam programme turned out to be a feast of good music and ‘Kalakshetra originals.'
The dancer comes across as a well-finished Kalakshetra product with a clean nritta technique. Her quiet ability and expressive eyes are her strength. They enhance the depth of the presentations and reflect her maturity at the same time.
The confidence with which she handled the old choreographies showed a deep sense of identification with the repertoire.
It took Jyolsana a while to get warmed up though. The ‘Kripa Samudram' sloka on Siva and the Kedaram kriti ‘Ananda Natana Prakasam' (Misra Chapu, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Rukmini Devi choreography) as her starting points were unimpressive in terms of the dancer's involvement and energy. From the ‘Mohamana' varnam (Bhairavi, Rupaka, Ponniah Pillai, Sharada Hoffman choreography), the dancer found her feet and there was no looking back after that.
The varnam was a smooth flow of melody punctuated by short, cheerful nritta segments. Shorn of embellishments like the thattu-mettu sequences and arudis in the first half, the slow-paced varnam allowed the dancer to live undisturbed the role of the lovelorn heroine. There was fluency in Jyolsana's portrayal and this kept one engaged in the characterisation.
Bhakti was never far away from the sringara interpretation of the lyrics. The much-debated phrase in the anupallavi, ‘Bhoga Tyagesa..' that is suggestive of a lovers' union was seen through the eyes of a devotee who is overawed by Tyagesa's form. The sringara peeped through the folds of bhakti with delicate imagery.
The economy of arm movements as an aspect of movement choreography was also seen in instances in the varnam and in the following padam (‘Padari Varugudu,' Khambodi, Ghanam Krishna Iyer, Rukmini Devi choreography) where an outstretched arm was used to convey more than one idea with a change in mudras and expressions.
In the varnam pallavi, the nayika losing her mind because of the moon's rays (kartharimukha) and describing the Tyagesa's beauty (alapadma) with the arms in the same position was achieved so seamlessly.
But for the final thillana (Dhanashree, Adi, Swati Tirunal, choreography by Leela Samson), that spelt style in every pathaka and alapadma mudra and movement on the diagonal, the two-hour recital maintained the same chauka-kala slow pace. Providing guidance throughout was Nirmala Nagaraj (nattuvangam).