Navia Natarajan presented a Bharathanatyam performance under the aegis of the Narada Gana sabha on the 16th of December. Navia is a graceful dancer with mature abhinaya and controlled footwork. Both these aspects came to the fore in the relaxed pace of the Nattaikurunji varnam, ‘Swami Naan Undhan Adimai’. Intricate jathis (composed by mridangam player Gurumurthy and nattuvanar Prasanna Kumar of Bangalore) were delineated with confidence and ease, the kavuthuvam-like jathi with interspersed lyrics being particularly noteworthy. There were several sarukku adavus and jumps (tha thai thams) in the choreography and yet the overall impact of the performance was subdued rather than energetic.
Navia performed the sancharis in an unhurried manner, bringing out the way the young girl’s faith in Natraja’s protection transforms to complete surrender in the adult nayika. The chanting of ‘Om Namahsivaya’ in the line ‘Namamruta Paname’ was a good idea and Nandakumar Unnikrishnan’s baritone added to the effect. So also did Mahesh Swamy’s bass flute.
Choreographed by Bragha Bessel, the Javali ‘Marubari' ended with Navia innovatively tying the corner of her sari to Lord Venkateswara’s wrist to prevent Him from leaving. In the Annamacharya composition, ‘Jo Achhutananda’, Navia started with a slokam in praise of Lord Krishna, portraying the Gopi’s amazement when He appears as a child in her house. The interaction between her and the child becomes dreamlike when, at the end, she finds the child gone.
Madurai N Krishnan’s tillana in Revathi formed the finale to the performance, which began and ended with an invocation to Devi.
Navia’s neat movements and her gentle abhinaya made for a pleasing performance. She also had good support from the wings, with Janardhan Rao playing the mridangam and Prasannakumar wielding the cymbals. At times, the singer’s voice as well as the flute sounded a little too loud, especially on the higher notes, somewhat at odds with the restrained abhinaya of the dancer.