What better way to remember Sarasa ‘Teacher’ than present some of her unusual choreographies… as Rathna Kumar did.
It was not so much a performance at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, as a walk down memory lane. Commemorating Guru K.J. Sarasa’s contribution to Bharatanatyam on her first death anniversary, her first student Rathna Kumar honoured her sister K.J. Seetha, and presented an evening of ‘Teacher’s’ choreographies together with some of her own. Guru Sarasa has left behind a substantial body of work and Rathna presented a few unusual pieces that Teacher had forgotten or shelved for reasons best known to her. Rathna spoke of how open ‘Sarasa Teacher’ was encouraging students to compose and choreograph new pieces, while looking on with a watchful eye.
Rathna’s introductions were as fascinating as the presentations, as she provided little-known anecdotes about Guru Sarasa. She commenced her homage with ‘Vaarana Mukha Vaa’ (Hamsadhwani, Rupaka, Koteeswara Iyer), one of Guru Sarasa’s favourite songs. ‘Mandooka Sabdam’ (Khambodi, Surutti, Gowla), about the beauty of the forest and the lake, and the Gajendra Moksha story as retold by the frogs in that lake, brought the magical setting alive, complete with sollus rendered by G. Srikanth denoting the frogs to the accompaniment of stereophonic base percussion from the ganjira (N.K. Keshavan). It proved that something does not have to be loud or fast to be dramatic; here, the pretty steps, catchy rhythm and inspiring music did the trick.
Rathna’s maturity as a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer-teacher for more than five decades was best showcased in the Suddha Saranga Ashtapadi, ‘Kuruyadunandana,’ with the music and dance composed by herself.
If the evening was poignant, ‘Yashodhara Vilaapam’ (Kanakangi, khanda chapu, written by Gurajada Apparao and composed by Rathna’s mother Anusuya Devi) gave it a deeper connotation with Yashodhara’s lament that Siddhartha had left a blameless wife without a word. Soulful music with Srikanth in form, flautist B. Muthukumar’s delectable accompaniment, violinist Muruganandam’s melodic contribution and Keshavan’s subtle drumming, heightened the drama, and the dancer was moved to tears.
Sarasa Teacher would surely have been happy with this artistic tribute!