Divya Kasturi was a picture of confidence in her Kathak mode. Sailaja's Kuchipudi performance was short yet enjoyable.

Divya Kasturi, better known as a Bharatanatyam dancer in Chennai, was seen in a Kathak performance for the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan festival this past week. Settled in the U.K., she seems to be straddling both styles but is quick to underline her loyalty to Bharatanatyam. She is a disciple of Guru Udipi Laxminarayan in Bharatanatyam and has trained under Jigyasa Giri and Gauri Sharma Tripathi in Kathak.

Dressed in a sophisticated moss green lehenga-choli and red brocade odni, Divya was full of confidence. Though she was fluent in her explanations and comfortable in her skin as a Kathak dancer, one could not shrug away her cultural background. The stiffness of Bharatanatyam has not yet yielded to the fluidity of Kathak.

The first part of her recital was devoted to laay or rhythm. With the support of Hiren Chate (tabla) and Sateesh Raghunathan (harmonium), Divya performed rhythmic combinations in Vasant taal (nine matras) and in teen taal (sixteen matras). One found her tihais and parans in teen taal pretty basic (she admits to being an amateur) but one was impressed with her standing tatkar in teen taal; there was merit in the laay and footwork.

The abhinay on the other hand was thoroughly disappointing. One expected more depth and feeling from an experienced classical dancer. The composition was a beautiful Meera Bhajan, 'Udjare Kaga' (there is a wonderful recording of Lata Mangeshkar) in which Meera bemoans Shyam's long absence and entreats a crow to take a letter to Him. Chitra Mohankumar (vocal) did justice to this haunting melody. Divya finished with a Tarana (Purya Dhanasri, teen taal) that showed off her sense of laay better. The akara singing in the final tatkar made for a dramatic closing.

Will Divya be able to achieve a perfect cross-over in the future? Or will she end up cross-pollinating both styles? Only time will tell.

Sailaja is another dancer who dabbles in two dance styles - Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam. Having trained under guru K.J. Sarasa (Bharatanatyam) and guru Vempatti Chinnasatyam (Kuchipudi), Sailaja performs and teaches both styles side by side.

By default or design, Sailaja is seen more in Kuchipudi performances lately. In fact, she released a Kuchipudi DVD ‘Dance in Divinity' recently and is donating the proceeds to help under-privileged children. The launch of the DVD was followed by a short Kuchipudi performance in the solo format that showcased some excerpts from it.

Sailaja was quite impressive. She has grown in maturity and confidence and one sees a greater fluency and vibrancy in her style. She is lighter on her feet and is able to keep up a good pace of dance. Her footwork on the whole was clear and precise, except the footwork on the brass plate that left much to be desired. The performance was typically racy, lively and dramatic both in music and dance. Sailaja presented a traditional tarangam (her own choreography) from Narayana Tirtha's ‘Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini' in ragamalika, Adi tala.

Krishna's appearance and His pranks were delineated with an expressive exuberance.

The piece ended with short yet dramatic nritta segments performed on the rim of the brass plate.

Select verses from Adi Shankaracharya's ‘Mahishasura Mardini' stotram (‘Aigiri Nandini') commenced with a well-visualised jati on the ferocious form of Durga. The music and dance came together to build up to the big moment of the fight between Durga and the demons Madhu and Kaitapa, but the actual fight choreographed in tisram was a stereotyped anti-climax, a big let down in the end.

B.P. Haribabu (mridangam) was the hero of the show with his involved drumming (two mridangams with different pitches), while S.R. Veeraraghavan (vocal) infused the music with bhava.

The supporting cast included M.S. Kannan (violin), P.V.Ramana (flute) and Sreelatha (nattuvangam) who followed every nuance in the dance. The recital was short but enjoyable on the whole.