Confidence, grace, perfect adavus and superb timing... all these and more made the recitals of Shriya Srinivasan and Nirupama Vaidyanathan wholesome and appealing.

What versatile eyes! When one thinks of Shriya Srinivasan, daughter and disciple of Bharatanatyam dancer Sujatha Srinivasan, one cannot forget those heavy lidded, dancing eyes that were so remarkably agile and expressive. Shriya is a second-generation ‘bright spark’ for sure. Inheriting her mother’s passion, Shriya blends the lasya or soft grace of the Vazhuvoor school with razor-sharp adavu finishes to create her own unique Bharatanatyam style. She was confident and convincing in presenting traditional and mythological contexts, despite the cross-cultural influences she has grown up with in the Diaspora.

The dancer’s eyes spoke louder than words -- they lit up with wonder and love as the heroine of the varnam (‘Samiyai Azhaithu Vaadi,’ Khamas, Adi, Tanjore Quartet) recollected her first glimpse of the handsome Sundareshwarar. In a subsequent padam (‘Mariyada Theliyakane,’ Suruti, Rupaka, Patnam Subramania Iyer), they reflected the embarrassment of the nayika when her nayaka behaves inappropriately in public. As Shriya delineated the first line with only her eyes, one marvelled at this maturity.

The dancer’s timing was also notable as she handled the pace shifts and the nadai changes in the opening, ‘Bhaja Manasa’ (Bahudari, Adi, Thulasivanam). The varnam presented more opportunities for Shriya in the ‘usi eduppu’ thattu-mettu sequences and in the fast-paced korvais.

Sujatha’s choreography was exciting and vibrant; the best being the invocation and the padam ‘Alokaye Sri Balakrishnam’ (Kurunji, Adi, Narayana Theertha) that described Krishna’s pranks as a child. Excellent coordination between the mother and daughter further enhanced the pieces. Sujatha’s nattuvangam was impressive as she guided the team firmly without being overpoweringly so.

The high standards brought out the best in the musicians as well. From the opening bars of the Sriranjani kriti, ‘Gajavadana karuna sadana’ Kandadevi S.Vijayaraghavan (violin) provided pure melody, setting the stage and shadowing the vocalist with good energy. Nandini Anand’s sweet voice coated every song delicately while Vedakrishnan (mridangam) provided appropriate rhythmic support. His sound effect for the varnam trikala-jathi was especially noteworthy.

The only not-so satisfactory part was the thillana (Gambeeravani ragam, Adi, T.K. Govinda Rao) that felt rushed in its execution. Shriya should take care to maintain the same standards throughout. It would be interesting to see this pretty bud bloom.

Stately and dignified

Coming from the impeccable lineage of Gurus Swamimalai S.K. Rajaratnam and Kalanidhi Narayanan, one would have been surprised if Nirupama Vaidhyanathan did not carry the dignity and depth expected of her. Her Bharatanatyam style spelt poise in all aspects of her dancing technique -- from the perfect elbow to perfect lines to precise footwork and expressions. There was only one drawback to this style that was stately -- it added years to her person. She can perhaps be less grounded and more light-footed while keeping her high standards intact.

Nirupama’s recital was predominantly bhakti-oriented. While the opening Chokkanathar Kavuthuvam (Begada and Valachi, misra chapu) listed the attributes and miracles of Sundareswarar of Madurai in clearly delineated phrases, the Venkateshwara Varnam (Pantuvarali, Adi, Madurai N. Krishnan) gave the recital the necessary depth. The devotional lyrics were enhanced by superlative singing by Preethy Mahesh and melodious bowing by Sikhamani. Swamimalai S.K. Suresh’s low-pitched masterly nattuvangam matched perfectly with the pitch of the seasoned Nellai D.Kannan’s mridangam to create a correspondingly meditative tone.

Given this excellence, the dancer’s role in establishing the mood was easier. The Narasimha and Vamana episodes in the Varnam were especially memorable for their understated treatment. There was a clever marrying of two devotional pieces, Saint Appar’s Thevaram, ‘Munnum Avarudaiya Naamam Kettal’ (ragamalika) and a Gopalakrishna Bharati kriti ‘Eppo Varuvaro’ (Jaunpuri). The former captured a heroine’s

spiritual journey that leads her to Lord Siva in Chidambaram and the latter, when a devotee yearns for the same ‘Thillai Cidamparam Thevan.’ It was a beautiful idea and flowed easily from one context into another. One was a bit confused though when the sringara aspect was underlined. No doubt the poet says he fell in love with the Lord (‘Isan Mel Kadal Kondein’) but taken in context after the earlier piece about total surrender, should bhakti not dominate?

Nirupama’s best was, however, as the angry and sarcastic heroine in ‘Indendu Vachitivira’ (Suruti, misra chapu, Melattur Kasinadhayya). The nritta was crisp and correct in execution; the jathi before the mukthayi with liberal use of misram was especially enjoyable as was the mukthayi swara. The charanam section starting with ‘Achuthananda Govinda’ was a speedier affair with vibrant swara korvais and arudis.

It was a wholesome performance; one would wish only for more exuberance.

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