The Margham festival brought together a whole lot of dancers on one platform
The Margam festival, focusing on the execution of a traditional Varnam in a Bharatanatyam repertoire, commenced with Soundarya Srivatsa's recital. All the dancers anchored their presentations with a traditional Pushpanjali / Alarippu, and Soundarya commenced with a Jhenjhutti Pushpanjali followed with a Saraswati shlokam by Kalidasa. Her entrance and dynamic stage presence instantaneously created an affinity with the audience. The Tanjore Quartet Virodhkhandita Nayika Varnam choreographed by Yamini Krishnamurthy with the devotee feeling that she is ignored by her Lord Brihadeshwara was magnificently executed. Supported by Srivatsa's mellifluous vocal and Prasanna's taut nattuvangam, the dancer's firm teermanams stood apart. Precise expression, flawless kudittas, and perfect thatta mettus made for a brilliant performance. The Kapi Javali portraying the Khandita Nayika being upset with her Nayaka for his siesta with another woman came out well. Neat sculpturesque poses and vibrant movements in the Valachi Thillana concluded her recital.
Sheejith Nambiar and Parvati Menon commenced their recital with “Chandramouli”, an item propitiating Lord Shiva. They choreographed the dance themselves, with a mesmerizing jathi. Both are trained in the Kalakshetra bani and displayed the neatly drawn “Tat Tai Tam” adavu, scintillating teermanams, and clear postures with chin bent at a perfect angle. The Swati Tirunal Varnam propitiating Lord Padmanabha set to Neelambari was exquisite.
Suparna Venkatesh's choreography on the second day with four young dancers from a different school of Bharatanatyam showed brilliant thinking. The recital commenced with Pushpamanjari paying obeisance to Shiva, Saraswati, and Astadikpala, choreographed by Srivatsa and Gurumurthy and set to Raagamalika. Suparna uses the performance space exceptionally well. The Shanmukhapriya Varnam “Devarmunivar” set to Adi Tala showing various avatars of Lord Vishnu came out well. Of the four dancers, Srinivas's performance was eye-catching. Neat thatta mettus, graceful movements, fine linear structural patterns, and subtle expressions enhanced the entire performance, along with the nattuvanar's vivacious jathis. The Hari Hara “Shankha Kapala” describing the attributes of Lord Shiva and Vishnu with swaras “na dre tani, tom dre tani” concomitant to a Thillana was excellent.
Satya Narayan Raju, a seasoned performer, commenced his recital with the Abhogi Jathiswaram. Though he might have reconsidered the unrestrained attami at the onset of Jathiswaram and Thillana, and the red angavastram worn with a red dhoti (associated more with Kali worshippers) for an item in praise of Lord Rama, the dancer's virtuosity was visible in his geometric lines, excellent use of the stage, and perfect aramandis. In the Astaragamalika Varnam “Swami Nee” describing Lord Shiva's grandeur, the bhakta's yearning to have a vision of the Lord was splendidly expressed. The Bhadrachalam Ramdas Padam set to Nathanamakriya portraying Sabari was spectacular. The movement of the worn Sabari, waiting earnestly for Lord Rama and plucking fruits for Him, and her joy at Rama's arrival brought tears to the eyes of the rasikas. Satya concluded his recital with a Ratipati Thillana choreographed by Guru Narmada.
Somsekhar Choodamani and Soumya Somsekhar on the final day gave a profound performance. Commencing with a Pushpanjali followed with a Ganapati Stuti “Gajavadana Karuna Sadana” in Sriranjini set to Adi Tala, the duo moved on to Dhandayudhapani Pillai's Varnam “Karunai Nee Chaiya” choreographed by Suparna Venkatesh, which delineated the dancers' perfection and assiduous training. Neat lines, subtle expression, graceful movements and jumps proved Somsekhar's mettle. The sanchari adapted from “Nandanar Charitram” with Nandanar's earnest desire to witness the presiding deity of Chidambaram was dramatically underlined in the abhinaya. Somsekhar's body manifests a supple and controlled energy. What he needs to concentrate on is direct eye contact with the rasikas. Soumya's solo rendition of the Ramanataka Keertanam written by Arunachala Kavi begins as Rama comes to inform Sita that he is just leaving on an exile of 14 years. The dance is centred on Sita's soliloquy in which she asks Rama to take her along with Him.
The best performance of the festival was Poornima Ashoke's. She displayed perfect eye contact, neat aramandis and subtle abhinaya, and the overall slow pace of the items gave her performance weight. She began with an Alarippu specifically choreographed for Margam by Kiran Subramanium in Panchajati and Panchagati, then performed Tulsidas's Bhajan “Thumak Chalat Ramachandra”. Kaushalya's light footsteps while teaching baby Rama to walk were spectacularly portrayed. Rendering Dhandayudhapani Pillai's Varnam “Swamiyai Azhaithodi Vaa” as the Nayika in complete belief that Shiva will return gave a fresh dimension to her choreography. Neat thatta mettus and kudittas and taut teermanams were beautifully highlighted. The Swadhinabhatrika Nayika in the second half of the Varnam requests her sakhi to fetch her Lord as her body and mind pine to unite with him. The dancer's immaculate presentation was mesmerizing. Poornima concluded with a Devarnama in which Krishna urges a young married girl to come to Him. In the superb conclusion, the girl takes Krishna's flute and runs away with it.