‘Lasyaka' was an attempt to string together solo Kuchipudi performances.
Either we redefine Kuchipudi and establish its individual idiom or we allow it to seamlessly merge with Bharatanatyam. The crudity and exaggerated abhinaya of original Kuchipudi notwithstanding, there still is a beauty in the rusticity when it comes to seeing a performance at Kuchipudi by the authentic artistes of the place. The urban Kuchipudi fare on which all of us are being fed , varies from dancer to dancer with noone establishing a common standard.
Good! After all art is forever evolving! Viewed in this light, Lasyaka , a string of solo pieces by duo Katyayani Thota and Shravya Varakantham, comes across as anything but invigorating Kuchipudi, in the name of Lasya or the feminine dance form as against tandava (masculine). When attempting to mitigate the original masculinity of this particular genre, the artiste should be extremely wary of crossing the thin border leading towards dilution of the entire structure. The end result would be the ‘country cousin' of Bharatanatyam with just daruvus (syllabic utterances) to distinguish the two or something as frivolous as the costume.
When dancing together on stage, the artistes failed to impress but when working alternately — like in the Dasavataram, they aesthetically elucidated each avatar in detail, coming out crisp and clear. The depiction of the churning of the milky ocean stood out as a superb piece of artistry. The disrobing of Draupadi in ‘Krishna avatar' episode and showing Kalki avatar as Lord Venkateswara was convincing.
The slow, heavy movement miming Ganesha, in the very first invocatory dance in Hamsadhwani was also a brilliant piece of creativity in tune with the lyrics. The same cannot be said of Thunga Tarange Gange in Kuntalavarali where the pravesa daruvu of Ganga was initially compelling but soon dwindled into repetitive hasta mudra for depicting the flow of waters.
By and large the sluggish moves cannot become the norm whether it be the nritta (jatis) or sancharis. The footwork was devoid of intricacy or variety which is justifiably expected in dancers who are doctorates. So was the repetitive hastabhinaya for neraval or sangatis as in Bala sarasa murali… (Keeravani, Sankarabharanam) though the sancharis and facial expression was commendable. Balance seemed an Achilles heel for both the dancers who tripped (in Oothukadu's composition) on one adavu or the other for a second!
Brisk footwork with vigour and rigour in movements is the hallmark of Kuchipudi dance. And when that is missing, it is difficult to make a lasting impression on the connoisseur as somewhere down the line, it fails to touch the heart. If anything, the tillana should set right certain lapses in footwork granting the songs were not all that racy. Through the entire presentation, neither of the dancers lifted their feet above a centimeter from the stage floor so to say. Every time they did, it seemed as if they were crossing little hurdles at best. The lyric for the tillana calls for a solo not a duo dancing.
‘Lasyaka' has its bright flashes too. This was one dance performance where the orchestra outwitted the dance as such. Veena by Phani Narayana was melodic to the ear. The percussion (mridangam by Rajagopalacharya and ghatam/kanjira by V. Bhanuprasad) did a power performance especially in depicting the mighty turbulent Ganga before Lord Shiva entwines her in his locks. Dinakar on the bamboo had ample scope to make a presence. Guru D.S.V. Sastry's nattuvangam was strong as was his vocal (barring the Gita sloka). The excellent stage lighting and backdrop in keeping with the theme of the song proved to be great assets. The dance was showcased at Ravindra Bharati.