Sampratikam offered mixed fare.
Sampratikam, the annual festival put up by Kuchipudi duo Raja and Radha Reddy and their Natya Tarangini troupe, drew enthusiastic houses at Kamani this past week. The festival opened with a presentation by the host team comprising the Reddys, including Kaushalya, and their students, but the group that stole the show was Kumudini Lakhia's on the final day.
Using technical aspects from the Kathak tradition, Guru Kumudini wove them into a sophisticated package with artistic lights and slick dancing, with minimalistic movements and staggered entries and exits. The ghazal, first sung and then danced by a soloist, reinforced the way in which the choreographer had made sure to bring tradition into the technological embrace of the 21st Century. As the dancer sang, her voice rang out over the well balanced mike, and then the same voice was heard through the quality recording as she danced. In other aspects too, the group scored.
Lights (Sharad Kulshreshtha) were designed to emphasise sometimes the linear and sometimes the circular and spiral aspects of the form.
Guru Kumudini's female dancers remind one of Krishna Sobti's women: strong, revelling in the beauty of their body without self-consciousness, full of dignity and grace.
The rousing tillana in Darbari Kanada had more entertaining athleticism, juxtaposing the slow and the fast, the tough and the gentle, creating geometric forms where you normally don't expect them in the case of Kathak. Kumudini choreographs with the lights, with costumes, with the body, individually and in groups. Everything was going great guns until the last bit, which turned into a disco and seemed unnecessarily to be stressing the point that classical dancers “can do that” too!
On the second day, Guru Gangadhar Pradhan too presented traditional pieces. With competent male and female dancers who exhibited technical skill without being brash, the show was prevented from rising to greater heights because of indifferent singing and a lack of thought in costuming — with nearly all the girls dressed in different shades of blue, though it suited hardly any of them.
In the sequence extolling Shiva he who burnt Kamadev to ashes, there was an elaborate depiction of Shiva in romantic dalliance with Parvati, before finally opening his third eye to destroy the God of love! This was a rare interpretation of the myth.
On the first day, the production by the Reddys suffered from varying standards of the dancers. Likewise, the senior dancers suffered in comparison to the fresh young things partnering them. If such accomplished dancers want to perform with their students, they should take care to bring their students up to the mark. Otherwise the production suffers. Mostly choreographers do use their students as their troupe, but this should not be the norm. The use of the smoke machine was also superfluous.