While the dancer blossomed like a delicate flower, her co-performers established roots.

Apsara Chandramohan, a charming teenager, and a disciple of Mohiniyattom dancer Gopika Varma, gave a memorable performance in Chennai recently. The unhurried pace of the recital was its most distinguishing feature. It brought out the best in both the dancer and the musicians; while the dancer blossomed like a delicate flower, her co-performers established roots and a flowering tree with sound melody. From the opening Sriranjani kriti (‘Gajavadana Karuna'), the music flowed in a continuous stream.

Superb musical support

The vocalist's (M.K. Rajesh) indulgent ways did detract from the overall quality but this was more than compensated by the vidwat of the violinist, Vinod Kumar and the flautist, E. Devaraj. M.S. Sukhi (mridangam) played a subdued role as he steered the rhythm gently while Kalamandalam Suresh Kumar (edakka) brought the sounds of Kerala into a Carnatic musical score.

Guided by the confident nattuvangam of Vipina Ramachandran, Apsara's fluid nritta in the invocation on Ganapathy (Arabhi and Nattai, Kavalam Narayana Panicker) and in the subsequent Cholkettu (Nalinakanti, Sudev Warrior, Adi), jatiswaram (Chenchuruti, Adi) and Thillana (Hamsanandi, Muthiah Bhagavathar, Adi) was enchanting. The dancer's grace was not just in her limbs; her eyes too danced, emphasising every bend of the body and every undulating stance. The softness was not at the cost of accurate timing as the firm sounds of the ankle bells proved. The choreography of the invocation by Gopika picturising the dancing Lord Ganapathy and his personable parents Siva and Parvathi, was interesting with rhythmic ‘vaithari' or syllables punctuating the descriptive lyrics. The jatiswaram was a choreography from Vallathol's time (1930s to the 1950s) and emphasised the slow grace of the dance style. The speed did pick up a little in the anu pallavi, but one could discern the unhurried approach of the old choreographies.

Another interesting choreography (by Gopika) was the padavarnam in Nilambari (‘Sarasashara Sundara,' Swati Tirunal, Adi). It was presented in an unbroken stream and treated somewhat unusually as an interpretive piece. The lilting beauty of the composition as well as its meaning cascaded through unhindered providing new experiences of the 19th century composition. As a heroine in love Apsara caught the mood with sensitivity. And when love turns to devotion as the varnam progressed, Apsara captured the change with clarity. The Gajendra episode and the closing imagery of Anantha Padmanabhaswamy were well-done.

Apsara is a well-rounded dancer and her tutors (Gopika, Vipina and Remya Ravi) have reason to be proud.


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