Friday Review » Dance

Updated: January 29, 2010 11:24 IST

Her eyes did the talking

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STUNNING: Purvadhanashree.
Photo: V. Ganesan
The Hindu
STUNNING: Purvadhanashree. Photo: V. Ganesan

VILASINI NATYAM Talented, graceful and inspiring best describe Purvadhanashree and her style.

Purvadhanashree is a talented and confident performer with dancing eyes and an extraordinarily mobile face (like her guru Swapna Sundari). She presented Vilasini Natyam, a graceful dance style that is fast gaining recognition. It is the revived and renamed version of a style practised by temple and court dancers (Vilasinis or Kalavantulus) in the Telugu speaking areas of South India. In the mid-20th century, the temple dancers were banned and their art lost patronage. With the efforts of Swapna Sundari, poet-historian Dr. Arudra and a surviving Saani, Maddula Lakshmi Narayana, it was recast in the 1990s.

It was a captivating performance of simple rhythm and lyrical movements, with emphasis on the interpretive aspect. There were so many inspiring moments in Purvadhanashree's recital that the line between a graceful style and an excellent exponent was blurred. Does one credit the dance style or the dancer, the teacher or the taught?

The nritta has a restricted vocabulary. The movements are small with the torso, wrist and eyes movements central to the style. Though Swapna Sundari has added more rhythm to the original choreographies, they are still simple. The dancer's liquid grace and the musicians' cohesive accompaniment transformed them into poetic statements.

There was a sense of timelessness in the choreography. In the past, the dancers would sing a few lines and then elaborate with abhinaya, so the lyric was repeated many times over. In the varnam (‘Daanike,' Thodi, Rupaka, Thanjavur Quartet), the lyric of the pallavi and the anu pallavi was taken together for interpretation. The tone was unhurried and detailed; the 'top to toe' description of the heroine and an elaborate account of Shiva's majestic form were proof.

There was one unforgettable moment when Purvadhanashree's eyes dance to show the movement of the snakes on Siva. What artistry that!

If the dancer was expressive earlier, she was inspiring in the padam, 'Sakka Dhaname Joochi' (Khambodi), a piece popular with temple dancers in North Coastal Andhra. It describes a heroine warning her wayward lover of the dangers of the ‘other' woman, using persuasion rather than aggression. The dancer was seated and her delineation allowed her eyes to do the talking first and only later were the hand gestures introduced. Masterful talent, no less.

There was an equally masterful orchestra supporting the dancer; Renuka Prasad (nattuvangam), Shweta Prasad (vocal), Shreedharacharya (mridangam) and M. Satyanarayana Sharma (violin).

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