Shobana's Vamana avatara was one of the best.
Shobana is one of the most talented Bharatanatyam dancers today. The intuitive timing, the visualisation skill, the expressive expertise and the arresting presence make her a natural. Where she lets herself down is in the execution.
Dancing along with Shobana was a talented student, Anuroopitha Sampath. Not only did the young dancer display an excellent laya sense, but she was also not overwhelmed by the guru's presence or by the guru's impromptu rhythmic forays on stage. She displayed remarkable flexibility in the snake dance, ‘Nadhar Mudi Mel' (Punnagavarali). However, Anuroopitha can improve her footwork and correct the superfluous deflections of the torso. One wonders how Shobana is able to carry off mismatched costumes and still look stunning.
Jayadeva's first song in Gita Govindam, ‘Pralaya Payodhi Jale' (Dasavataram, ragamalika) brought out the best in Shobana. While the Varaha avatar stood out for its detailing, the Narasimha avatar had some imaginative storytelling. When Hiranyakashipu's wife prays with her unborn infant in her womb, it responds, ‘Um, um..!' The ghora roopa of Narasimha also had finesse. Vamana avatara was one of the best - Mahabali's powerful stature conveyed through the walk of the majestic elephant, the short-stepped walk of the dwarf and Krishna's Viswaroopa seen through Mahabali's wide-eyed reaction were the highlights.
The bhakti varnam, ‘Nee Manamirangi' (Lathangi, Adi, Andavan Pitchai, music by Kamakshi Kuppuswamy) had both dancers performing side by side. There was no hierarchy in the presentation, rather the choreographer created colourful images with the dancers alternating characters in poses made in quick succession.
Shobana joining the mridangam player (Ramakrishna) in a thani avartanam midway was a surprise factor. The music arrangement of the opening Pushpanjali (Gambhira Nattai, Eka talam, Ganesh-Kumaresh) with konnakkol (Ramakrishna) was a treat with Radha Badri (vocal), B. Muthukumar (flute) and Revathy Kumar (nattuvangam- Shobana's student) contributing their combined skills.
There were many memorable moments during the evening when Shobana unleashed her creativity. Only that they were juxtaposed with some shoddy steps. What a pity!