‘Mohini Nrityati’, a five-day-long Mohiniyattam festival in Thiruvananthapuram, explored the dance form and its aesthetic possibilities in expressing contemporary themes.

The capital city witnessed a five-day-long ‘Mohini Nrityati’ Mohiniyattam festival.

Deepti Omchery Bhalla

Mohiniyattam choreographer, dancer and scholar Deepti Omchery Bhalla was the performer for the opening day. Deepti skilfully portrayed the antics of child Ganapathy in ‘Paithal Ganapathy’, taking it beyond the usually seen invocatory pieces. Deepti's efforts to bring in innovation and also showcase the unique features of the dance form without deviating from the traditional framework of Mohiniyattam was the highlight of her recital. ‘Adikesava Thubhyam Namah...’, a dance composition from the ancient ‘Muthalakkoottu’ collection in praise of Thiruvattar Adikesava Perumal set in raga Thukka (Shuddha Saveri of today), stood out both in the way it was performed and presented.

In the Swati Thirunal padam ‘Thellupolum Krupa...’ in Kurinji, Chaapu, Deepti presented the heroine, who tries desperately to get the attention of her husband, in a dignified manner. Unhurried and composed, Deepti was successful in making her recital an engaging one until she concluded with the tenth ashtapadi from Jayadeva’s ‘Gita Govindam’. Alas, she did not have a live orchestra to support her, which would have enabled her to explore the medium to the fullest extent possible.

Sudha Peethambaran

‘Ananda Ganapathy’ marked the beginning of Sudha Peethambaran’s Mohiniyattam recital on the second day followed by a Cholkettu evoking goddess Saraswati. She was keen to make those characteristic moves look elegant, but the finesse was missing in certain places.

‘Sri Krishnaya Namah’ was the central piece in which she narrated some of the tales of Krishna. Along with the narration of Bhagavad Gita, she also touched the bhakti-vibhakti conflict between Poonthanam and Melpathur.

When many performers tried to bring in some ethnic flavour into their recital in some form, Sudha relied mainly on Carnatic classical and semi-classical compositions. Popular devotional ‘Oru Neramenkilum...’ in Dhwijavanti, Adi, and Irayimman Thampi's classic lullaby ‘Omanathingal Kidavo...’ in Kurinji, Misra Chapu, were the final pieces.

Vijayalakshmi

Vijayalakshmi tried to blend traditionalism and modernism, focussing heavily on the choreographic aspects of the dance-form. A Ganapathy stuti set in Arabhi and Adi was the opening item. ‘Lalitha Lavanga...’, Jayadeva’s ashtapadi, followed and the ‘Kottippadiseva’ style rendering made it stand out from the usual ashtapadis.

‘Mukhajalam’ and ‘Mayil Koothu’ were set to indigenous ragas and talas of Kerala. In ‘Mayil Koothu’, a composition of Kavalam Narayana Panicker, she presented a peacock yearning for rain, ably portraying the characteristics of the bird in the Mohiniyattam format.

Using prerecorded music has its advantages and Vijayalakshmi made the best use of it when she presented a piece using the OST (symphonic in nature, arranged by Mac Quayle and sung by the dancer herself) from the docu-film Beyond Grace as the background score. She fused the steps of Kaikottikkali and body movements of Kalaripayattu into her dance.

Sandra Pisharody and Parvathy Sreevallabhan

Vamana taking his gigantic form, covering the earth and sky in his first two steps, and King Bali surrendering his own head for the third step – Sandra Pisharody and Parvathy Sreevallabhan were at their best while narrating the legend behind Onam in ‘Onasabdam’, the central piece of their performance on the fourth day. It also featured some of the choreographic experiments by their guru, Nirmala Paniker, such as ‘Ammanattam’, in which the duo were seen in perfect sync with each other as they sumptuously portrayed women celebrating the festival of Onam. Their recital began with a rousing ‘Nrithyathi Nrithyathi...’, a Swati kriti in Sankarabharanam, Adi.

For a beginner like Parvathy, the navarasa sloka from Adi Shankara's ‘Saundarya Lahari’ proved a little too heavy to make an impression. Sandra was at ease while enacting a Kurathi in ‘Ayyappacharitham Kurathippattu’, which was announced as an attempt to bring back the long lost folk tradition in Mohiniyattam. The duo had the support of a live orchestra.

Parvathy Jayaram

Parvathy Jayaram looked elegant in her rich costume. Her performance could have done with more of fluent moves, abhinaya and intensity than what was presented.

The first three days of the programme was organised under the banner of Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi and the rest under the auspices of Soorya.