For every jati he performed, the hall resounded with applause. For every sanchari he displayed, the awe-struck rasikas sat in rapt attention. On the second day of the Nartaka Festival, Bangalore-based Bharatanatyam dancer Sathyanarayana Raju stole the show and probably the Narthaka festival itself. One of the senior students of late Guru Narmada, Sathya managed to deliver the essence of the Thanjavur bani, undiluted.

Sathya was performing for the sixth edition of Natyanjali Trust’s Nartaka Festival for male dancers, at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

The first evening opened with a solo ‘Dashavataram’ by Narendra Kumar, a Kalakshetra graduate. While Narendra showed some good ideas in his choreography, a large part of it became monotonous. Following this, two Kalakshetra veterans, A. Janardhanan and C.K. Balagopalan were honoured by Anita Ratnam in a glittering ceremony. The evening continued with Prof Janardhanan performing an excerpt from ‘Srikrishna Karnamritam’ in a clear combination of Bharatanatyam and Kathakali. Though a bit slow, one could see flashes of old-school Kalakshetra style in his dance.

The best came from Prof. C.K. Balagopal who performed a Jayadeva ashtapadi ‘Priye Charusheele,’ much to everyone’s amusement.

This was followed by a rather insipid performance by Ramli Ibrahim. Ramli’s strength lies in his Odissi dance and his return to Bharatanatyam with recorded music wasn’t one of the best he could offer. Shanmuga Sundaram, otherwise a good solo dancer, ended up in a disappointing duet with Ramli.

The second day almost made up for the first. A. Lakshmanan’s solo recital saw him displaying good bits of his abhinaya in Sarangapani’s padam ‘Chitike Vesithe.’

That was followed by what was probably the best performance of the entire – that of Sathyanarayana Raju. He is certainly one of the most under-noticed dancers on the Chennai dance scene. Presenting a traditional Thanjavur Quartet varnam, ‘Saami Ninne Kori’, with clear lines and solid jatis, Sathya’s finesse worked its way in due course. He excelled in both nritta and abhinaya. He followed that with a Purandaradasa Devarnama in praise of Lord Hanuman. Once again, his sancharis kept the audiences captivated.

The last day saw a contemporary dance performance by three Bangalore-based dancers Amaresh, Charan and Deepak Shivswamy. Products of Attakalari Center, they presented ‘Three Souls.’ The last performance of the festival was by Rakesh, another Kalakshetra graduate.