The 15th Parampara festival of Natya Tarangini brought to New Delhi some excellent performances.

Natya Tarangini’s 15th Parampara festival at the Kamani, along with the dance/music presentation, heralded its brand new state-of- the-art premises at Saket. The curtain-raiser by Natya Tarangini Kuchipudi dancers trained under the Reddy Parampara of Raja/Radha and Kaushalya, was a group presentation entitled “Sparsha Ballet”. Sparsha in Sanskrit has several connotations of touch, of contact, of encounter, of tangibility, of sensation and of sensitivity (sparsha lajja), used in reference to the sense organs too. Stringing all these ideas into dance images showing man’s awareness of the five cosmic elements — air, water, Earth, the sky and fire — and the sense of wonder in sparsha of the indriyas or sense organs, to the ultimate expression of oneness in the Shiva/Shakti symbolism leading to creativity and to the man/woman bond through marriage and the mother/child tie, Sparsha was expressed through myriad situations.

Set to Sanskrit verses by Vedavyasa Ranga Bhattar and sung to Sheshachari’s ragamalika score, the ballet despite technical hiccups caused by sound and the recorded music playing fast and loose, did not miss out on cues — even the youngsters not floundering during interruptions. Raja/Radha appeared briefly as the Shiva/Shakti couple and seemed in some physical discomfort. Having trained so many students for years, some among them finished dancers, the duo can think in terms of giving larger roles to the youngsters, lessening their own burden. As the sutradhar, Rashmi Vaidyalingam was most impressive despite fleeting appearances. The scene with the four couples after the marriage hymns were recited seemed over stretched. The mother rocking the baby in the cradle was a moving scene. Costumes were aesthetic.

Malavika Sarukkai’s Bharatanatyam performance is one of the best from this dancer in recent years. The Vasant Ritu interpretation of verses of Kalidas caught the varying images of Nature at her most resplendent with a veneration showing a dancer deeply immersed in evoking the mood of the moment. The sringar images which followed with Manmatha in full cry with his flowered darts aimed at various persons, with singer Nandini Anand’s musical imagery in full consonance with the dance interpretation, made for evocative moments. The high point of the recital was yet to come in “Maninam” based on Kamba Ramayanam verses showing women responding to the first look at valorous Ram as he enters Mithila. As some enter leaping like deer, and some like the graceful peacock, others dart in between the crowds and some gleam like scattered stars in the sky - all eyes falling on a part of Rama, remaining riveted to the spot with no consciousness of the rest of the hero — for in each part lay the splendour and effulgence of the whole. As Nandini Anand broke into Kamas with “Tol Kandaal tole kandaal” the dancer brought out sringar/bhakti in all its intensity. The finale based on Oothukadu Venkatasubbaiyer’s Kalinga Nadanam tillana was unlike the customary items in this genre — for here recitations, nritta passages and the picture of Krishna dancing on the serpent hoods are all combined in a form where rhythmic cadences and tones keep changing — and Malavika’s visualisation, with all the surprises, created the perfect mood. With a fine group of musicians and percussionist, Malavika was in full form, her Bharatanatyam with distilled intensity rather than virtuosity.

Astad Deboo on the final evening of Parampara in “Rhythm Divine” interacted in his contemporary dance vocabulary with Manipuri pung cholom specialists. Amazingly versatile, these drummer/dancers, in moving in the oh-so-slow fashion that Astad prefers, have a sense of timing and of incredibly coordinated group discipline, which make working with them a pleasure for Astad, whose style seems to have such a fine jugalbandi relationship with movements deriving from Manipuri and Thang Ta. Every rasa from fear to daring to joy was brought out through abstract movement. As for Astad, with stances through his body arched backwards and non-stop pirouetting dervish like, and movements with body angled in impossible profiles, wonderment, merriment, and every rasa was evoked. The artistic music mixing with western music, opera, Japanese Shamisen, different types of gongs, added to the presentation. One part in particular with the sound of gunshots and constant drone of war planes, with the Manipuri dancers creating beauty of movement, was a stark reminder of today’s world with all its terror amidst beauty — and a strong message of what is happening in Manipur with constant turmoil, amidst which artists are trying to create aesthetics.