Class acts by eminent dancers and musicians were the highlight of this year's Soorya festival.

It was five days of dance and music at Kerala Fine Arts Society, Kochi, in connection with the annual Soorya Festival. The fiesta began with a Carnatic music concert by O.S. Arun on the first day. Although the first half of the artiste's performance was marred by sruti non-alignment, it rose to amazing levels of aesthetics in his Kalyani alapana, which was marked by richness of interpretation.

He incorporated sruti bhedam to Mohanam and Madhyamavati to splendid effect. Ramesh Babu charmed the audience with his performance on the mridangam. The vocalist indulged the audience by singing one of their requests – ‘Entharo Mahanubhavulu' towards the end of the concert. ‘Bhuvinidasudane' in Sriranjani and ‘Chadebudhinanura' in Atana were the other compositions sung.

Poorvi was the main raga of the evening in Ramesh Narayanan's Hindustani music concert on the second day. His alaap showed a few creative musings. Swati Tirunal's Jhap taal bandish ‘Mahipal' was presented delectably and the drut teen tal bandish ‘Mor Pinch' was well rendered too. The moorchanas to Gujri Todi and Vrindavani Sarang were the highlight of the Jog piece ‘Hanuman Lala.' Madhushree Narayan supported her father well in this presentation.

Mastery over technique

Rama Vaidyanathan's Bharatanatyam performance on the third day was a display of commendable mastery over technique. The neat lines and adavus performed for the Reethigowla varnam of the Tanjore quartet portrayed a yearning heroine reaffirming her trust in Lord Padmanabha. The sancharis portrayed the Lord as the creator of Kama, the god of love. The choreography could have accommodated more variety.

Savita Shastri presented a contemporary theme in a dance ballet titled ‘Music Within' in the Bharatanatyam style. With the aid of a narrative in English, novel treatment, and elements of theatrical acting, the dancer presented the story of a deaf girl Mallika, as she gets introduced to the world of sound and music by an angel. Ordinary movements (lokadharmi) were fused with the stylised idiom of dance (natyadharmi). Mallika is consoled in the end by the realisation that music is not heard with ears, but it is realised within.

On the same day was a presentation by students of Kuchipudi dancer Remadevi. When compared to the other performances in the festival, this performance seemed a tad amateurish. The ‘taranga' set to Neelambari was marred by rhythmic discrepancies and vocal accompaniment that was out of tune.

Vibrant performance

The dance ensemble by Nrityagram, Bangalore, was the highlight of the fiesta. ‘Ritu Basant' showcased Bejoyini Sapthati and Surupa Sen exploring the amazing possibilities of Oddisi as they leaped and provided vibrancy to a routinely graceful dance.

They captivated the audience with ‘Vibhakta' depicting the male and female forces combining together in Arthanareeswara sthothra. Sapthathi portrayed the tandava, masculine and digambara aspects of Shiva.

Through subtle movements and flawless techniques, the duo performed an Ashtapadi, ‘Kisalaya shayana.' Pavitra Reddy, one of the performers of the dance ensemble, did a good job of combining three characters, those of a complaining gopi, a defensive Krishna, and a graceful Yashoda who sides with her son.

The festival, which has showcased some splendid artistes in the past, could have shone better this year, with some discretion going into the selection of programmes.