The Fifth National Sreesankara Dance and Music Festival featured danseuses Manju Barggavee, Gopika Varma and Priyadarshini Govind who enchanted the audience with their grace and skill.

As part of the Fifth National Sreesankara Dance and Music Festival, illustrious artistes such as Manju Barggavee, Gopika Varma and Priyadarshini Govind along with numerous youngsters participated in a fete at Kalady, the birth place of Adi Sankaracharya.

The five-day programme began with a novel presentation of ‘Srikrishnacharitam' – a natyabhashyam by senior danseuses of the Sree Sankara School of Dance, Kalady. The composition and choreography of the mega show were by C.P.Unnikrishnan.

On the second day of the fete, Manju Barggavee, actor and danseuse, danced her way into the hearts of rasikas, right from her first presentation of a koutvam. ‘Jaganandakaraka' (in Natta, Roopaka tala), a composition by Tyagaraja, saw her performing hasta and padavinyasams with amazing finesse. The much-sought-after ‘Narayanatheertha Tarangam' followed.

Abstract expression

‘Krishnalila Tarangini' in Ragamalika (Adi tala) brought to fore an abstract expression of dance. An expansive exploration of the verse ‘Indiramandira vasa sundara' was adorned with ragam and swaram; she navigated the intricacies of nritta sections with confidence and verve. The dance on the brass plate was one of the highlights of the evening.

Manju moved on to a traditional enactment of Kuchipudi, ‘Bhamakalapam' (Arabhi, Adi tala). Bhama's search for Krishna and her final surrender to the will of the Lord was evocatively depicted by Manju. Prior to the conclusion of the day's programme two of Manju's disciples – Veena Nair and Dhanya Nair – provided a visual presentation of an excerpt from the ‘Narayaneeyam'. The programme came to an end with the famous composition of ‘Sivashtakam' (by Sankaracharya) that was soaked in devotion and bhakti.

Gopika Varma's Mohiniyattam recital on the third day began with a hymn on Vigneshwara and moved on to ‘Ayyappacharitam,' scripted by her disciple Sampreetha Namboodiri. The piece narrated the legend of the Lord, his childhood, encounter with Mahishi, and so on. Her enactment of various characters in the story was noteworthy as she moved from one to the other with ease and charm.

The presentation was embellished with swaras and subtle sancharibhavas.

Sathyabhama enlightened

Gopika's depiction of ‘Bhama Garvabhangam,' choreographed by her, was an exhilarating experience for the audience. Sathyabhama thinks that she alone is her Lord's favourite. But after long and hot exchanges, she finally realises that her selfish love does not match the sublime devotion of Rugmini, and she surrenders totally to the will of Lord Krishna.

A portrayal of Swati's bhajan ‘Jamunakinare' was a memorable one for the rasikas. Giving her own explanation of the bhajan, Gopika showcased a gopika's intense love for Krishna. She concluded with a brisk thillana, a presentation of Mahishasuramardini stotram and a mangalam, ‘Bhujagaasayinam.'

The only drawback of Gopika's performance was her inability to overcome her melancholic stayi bhava (dominant mood).

The fourth day of the festival saw Priyadarshini Govind, enthralling the audience with her Bharatanatyam recital. ‘Jaya jaya Swamin,' a koutvam in Shanmukhapriya, composed by Madurai Muraleedharan (Roopaka tala) on Lord Shanmukha, transported the rasikas to another world. Priyadarshini introduced a varnam in Ragamalika (Roopaka tala), composed by the Thanjavoor brothers on Nataraja. Her fast footwork, pleasant appearance and clear sancharibhavas made it into a memorable experience for the spectators. Her flexibility, amalgamation of aesthetic innovations and expressions imbued the number with grace and energy.

Sublime presentation

Priyadarshini's presentation of a Tulasidas bhajan on Rama was an excellent piece of artistry. Kousalya's ardent desire to be with her son Rama, her playing with the child Rama, bringing him up and so on were evocatively presented.

Another piece where body language and expressions made for outstanding visuals was a Javali in Poorvakalyani. It was the description of a nayika getting ready to receive her beau. Clean and precise adavus and expressions added a new depth to the visual poetry.

‘Vishamakara kanna,' composed by Oothukad Venkita Subbaiyyer, followed. Priyadarshini's depiction of Krishna's childhood pranks was delightful to watch. The treatment of the theme was marked with dignity and devotion.

A thillana in Behag (Adi tala), a composition of Balamuraleekrishna, and a bhajan – ‘Pibare Ramarasam' in Ahirbhairav – brought her dance recital to a spectacular culmination. Rama, who takes away all fears of birth and death, is invoked through the melodious bhajan. The dancer became the dance itself when she immersed herself in Rama rasa. Elaboration of the word ‘Brahmanandam' in it saw the vocalist and the dancer delving into the depths of mysticism.

Undoubtedly, it was one of the most exciting performances of Priyadarshini who proved once again her ability to come up with a performance par excellence.

The fete, organised under the aegis of the Sree Sankara School of Dance, Kalady, was held at the the NAS Auditorium.