The week belonged to a number of young dancers from different parts of the country who performed in the Capital

For the Bangalore-based Natya Saraswati to mount “Nritya Bharathi” at the India International Centre featuring all the classical dance forms in mini slots, hoping for an audience on a Sunday morning, was nothing short of audacious. That there was a fair sized audience went to their credit. In a generally intelligently devised programme with a wise choice of young dancers, cutting down the long winding introductions with overblown details of each dancer’s training and awards and the formalities of presentations with chief guests and others asked to come after each item to speak after presenting tokens of appreciation, would have made for less distractions and more streamlined proceedings.

Megna Das with her Odissi training in Singapore before coming under the tutelage of gurus like Kelucharan Mohapatra, Mayadhar Raut, Gangadhar Pradhan and Surupa and Bijayini at Nrityagram, provided a fine curtain-raiser, with her invocation to the ‘Tandavapriya putra’ Ganesh followed by the pallavi in Bageshri, choreographed by Kelucharan with music by Raghunath Panigrahi. One has not seen much of this dancer with a fine technique and grace.

The other impressive dancer of the morning was Sinam Basu the Manipuri performer, his Dashavatar rendered to some soul stirring taped Manipuri singing, giving ample evidence of the dancer’s mastery over the form. The original choreography by Amubi Singh with some changes by Lokendra Singh, in the slower passages showing Kalki the rider on the horse, was evocatively presented by Sinam.

Yet another performer who showed class was the Kathak dancer Saurav, a disciple of Malabika Mitra of Kolkata, who has also had short stints of training under gurus like Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kumudini Lakhia and Vijayshankar. His Dhamar tala execution was notable for crisp clarity in footwork, chakkars and tukras.

To conclude on a high note was the Kathakali dancer Kalamandalam Gautam who presented “Poothana Moksha”. As Pootana enters to the line “Ambadi gunam varninchiduva” in Kambodhi raga, expressing her delight and wonder at the images of Nature presented in Gokul, where she has been sent by Kamsa to kill baby Krishna, in the stillness of the dance, the economical gestures with no needless movements and the clean facial expressions, one could see a finished Kathakali artist, with the Kalamandalam stamp. The contrast of the motherly instincts stirred on catching her first look of baby Krishna in the cradle as the word “Sukumara” is sung with all the vatsalya tone in Todi, against the vicious act of trying to suckle the baby on her poisoned breasts, was strongly brought out.

L. Murugashankari’s Bharatanatyam rendition of Swati Tirunal’s “Shankara Sri Giri” in Hamsanandi, with all the ‘veeshara adavu” raised leg and poses, tended to be very exaggerated in expression in passages like “Bhasma trinetram”, with the dancer, trained under K.J. Sarasa and having worked under persons like Parvati Ravi Ghantashala, giving a self-conscious presentation unable to lose the performer in the dance.

Similar hype and lack of controlled movement economy characterised the Kuchipudi dancer Snehalatha, a disciple of Uma Rama Rao and Alekhya Punjala. Presenting Annamacharya’s composition “Vachhenu Alamelumanga” in Hindolam, in portraying the sensuous beauty of Alamelumanga, the dancer overdid the pouting lips and the constantly open mouth, which a few Kuchipudi dancers seem to have the habit of doing, while trying to show erotic sringar. Even while mouthing the words of the song, which is a practice, greater restraint and internalised abhinaya would make for a more convincingly understated presentation.

Atulya Rakesh, a student of Vinith Nedungadi, in her Mohiniattam mukhachalam, composed by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, set to ragas Punnagavarali, Chakravakam, Reetigowla and Mohanam, danced with grace, though the next item imaging the peacock in a musical composition in Samanta Malahari, for this critic, needed more polishing. But what was intriguing was the way Atulya’s costume was tailored — more like a Bharatanatyam costume though the white sari with coloured border was used. Instead of the cut costume splitting the legs trouser fashion, the traditional skirt costume is so much more aesthetic.

Dimpy’s Sattriya had a quiet tone in its neat movements. Gopir Nach is a more lasya-oriented item. The more accented natya element was brought in the Vamanavatar episode with Bali’s pride being humbled by Vishnu manifesting as the dwarf, well communicated. The music on tape in the rendition of ragas like Dhanashree, Asovari, Kalyan and Kherman was melodiously sung with the khol playing of talas like Suta, Ektal, Parital full of clarity.

Regaling Odissi

The same evening at the IIC, the programme “Bhoomi Pranam” saw perhaps one of the best group Odissi expressions of Alpana Nayak and her senior students. In place of the customary Odissi mangalacharan was “Sabha Lakshan” based on verses from the Abhinaya Darpan of Nandikeswara, visualised in dance by both Alpana and her disciple Ayushi. Presented by five dancers, this opening saw the formal consecration of stage space with homage to the elements, to the various dikpalas, followed by homage to Ganapati in “Padabande Gananatha” to conclude with the trikhandi pranam of mangalacharan. Refraining from too many gestures and relying more on quiet posturing and frozen group arrangements, the opening had neat designing with the music in the Abhinaya Darpan verses sung in a traditional Odissi recitational pattern by Prasanta Behera, very fitting. “Tolagi Gopa Danda Manare Kaliya” the popular Odiya lyric of Gopalkrushna Pattnaik, portraying Radha in mingled irritation and love chiding Krishna for waylaying her on her way to the Mathura haat to sell curds, was rendered with very expressive mukhabhinaya by Alpana’s daughter who has special talent for interpretative dance. She still has to learn some toning down of needless hype in places, but with her total ability to get into the mood of a song, without hesitation, she has a future in abhinaya.

The Kirvani pallavi, one of the jewels of Kelucharan Mohapatra, presented by Ayushi, Amrit and Vaishali, showed fine group understanding amongst the three dancers, and even while independently, there were movements needing more finish, the overall effect was very satisfying. Ayushi’s resetting for the group of a Kelucharan Mohapatra choreography, showed definite flair for group aesthetics — though she herself needs to develop a more supple torso to give her Odissi profile more clear deflections. The other Gopal Krushna Odiya lyric, “Uthilu ede begi kahinki” in Malavagoda, portraying an exasperated Yashodha unable to do her morning chores, with her foster son refusing to sleep, was convincingly interpreted by Alpana.

Moksha the finale, fairly spirited in the nritta details, however, could not quite capture the quietude of the final ‘Om’. Prafulla Mangaraj on mardal, Dhiraj Pande on flute and Gopinath Swain on violin combined well as a musical team.

Meanwhile, in the aesthetic setting of Triveni’s open-air auditorium, a Sattriya workshop led by Anita Sharma of Guwahati, alongside the Bismillah Khan Award recipient Naren Chandra Boruah, had its opening with a small group of enthusiastic learners from Delhi going through the initial process of mastering the first Mati Akharas — Ora, Pani Sicha, Had Pakowa, Pachala Tola and Orat Baha-Utha. The attempt to spread Sattriya knowhow has been taken on as a rigorous plan by Anita Sharma.