Odissi from two ends of the spectrum took the Delhi stage this week. Young Vishwanath Mangaraj’s performance revealed an artist of great promise, while veteran Kiran Segal took the multi-media approach to the Ramayana.

Vishwanath Mangaraj, hailing from a family where every male member is connected with Odissi as a singer or percussionist, is training in both pakhawaj playing and Odissi dance. His father Prafulla Mangaraj, one of the fine mardal players of the day and the great Guru Banamali Maharana of Bhubaneswar are Viswanath’s gurus for percussion training. For the dance, his Odissi teacher over ten years has been American born dancer/teacher Sharon Lowen, herself trained under late guru Kelucharan Mohapatra for years. That Viswanath, at the tender age of sixteen, is such a promising dancer, with an immaculate technique, and along with it is showing signs of developing into a free and articulate speaker in English and in Hindi, goes to the credit of his teacher who apart from the training in dance has provided opportunities for Viswanath to express himself freely. For the HCL evening at Stein Auditorium, Viswanath danced with an aplomb which showed not just his perfection of movements but also his relaxed ease on the stage. Able to reach the venue only during the rendition of the latter half of the pallavi in Hamsadhwani, one was happy to see the exactitude of rhythm as Viswanath went through varying arithmetical combinations of 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9. His graceful Odissi comprises a supple torso, and neatly profiled chauka and tribhanga. Father Prafulla Mangaraj was on the mardal, with Kalyani providing manjira support reciting the ukkutas. Fine vocal support was provided by Rupak Kumar Panda. The ashtapadi “Dheera Sameere” with the sakhi persuading Radha to join Krishna, whose yearning solitude, looking for her footstep in every falling leaf or feather, she paints with deep feeling, was sensitively handled in the dancer’s abhinaya.

He has what is needed and as he grows in experience, this feel for mood is bound to evolve even more. “Sruta Kamala Kucha Mandala” showing Krishna seated on his Garuda, as the destroyer of Mura and Naraka, as the Govardhana Giridhari and as the one whose divine play with Radha and the gopis delights devotees, was also very subtly handled, the moods changing from destroyer to protector, to sringar nayaka, in fleeting passages very well caught. Yaar Mohammad on sitar and Deeraj Pande on flute completed the musical team. If Viswanth’s focus remains steadfast, he has a very bright future.

Supported by the Ministry of Culture and the ICCR, Kiran Segal’s “Ramayana”, a multi-media presentation with dance, did not reach the levels of artistry one associates with this dancer. The dance expression was so minimalistic that it bordered on the simplistic. It started off with dancers taking postures and forming a kind of backdrop during the salutation, after which one hoped for more substance in the dance part — which never came. For the most part the participants were walking and posturing as in an action play and in spite of all the artistic visual aids of paintings and light effects, the dance element remained too thin to make an impact. The parts shown as shadow play could have been better rehearsed. The story line in the briefest outline lacked all persuasive power in scenes like Manthara working with her wiles and changing Kaikeyi’s mind or in the scene of the golden deer, or even the Ashoka Vatika scene. Despite some parts which could have been sung better, S.M. Maharana’s music in the typical Odisha tunes and chhanda along with other ragas like Malkauns, Shivarajani, Bhairavi was the best part of the disappointing event. The dancer as Sita was the most communicative.