The Sheejith Krishna-O.S. Arun combination transcended the boundaries of conventional music-dance relationship.
On the concluding evening of The Music Academy's Dance festival, inadvertent circumstances conspired to create an unforgettable aesthetic experience with singer O.S. Arun generously offering to step into the breach created by the sudden illness of the intended vocalist for Sheejith Krishna's Bharatanatyam recital.
Normally a singer of the standing of Arun carves out his own artistic space drawing attention away from the dancer, the individualistic singing throwing awry the painstaking gesture/word foundation on which the dance is composed.
But if and when a dancer of matched calibre can vibe with him on equal terms with the combination of music/dance becoming not one of competing for space but a shared experience of each drawing inspiration from the other, the performance can become a rare aesthetic interaction. And so it was that evening.
Sheejith Krishna's curtain-raiser ‘Bhairava Ashtakam' by Adi Sankara, set to music in Hamsadhwani by Bombay Jayashri, set the tone, with the dancer catching in an ecstatic rendition both the passion and the quietude of Siva, whose grandeur combines might with intellectual strength.
Lalgudi Jayaraman's varnam in Charukesi ‘Innum En Manam Ariyaadavarpol' with singer Arun unstoppable in his own world of musical weaves spun round each line had the dancer equally inspired, the abhinaya of the devotee chiding Krishna for feigning innocence about his/her depth of feelings and not responding -- as fervent in emotive depth as were the nritta passages in rhythmic brilliance.
There was a quick Bhasmasura flash in a sanchari showing Krishna's clever disguise destroying the enemy, and the total surrender in the charanam refrain ‘Kuzhaloodum Azhaga Kanna, Kuraiteerayo.'
While dancers today are wont to displaying long winding jatis, what looks like a deliberate show of skill in other dancers becomes a natural expression of the performer's joy thanks to Sheejith's proficiency as a mridangam artist, with every intricate move in the rhythmic cycle coming from the gut. Haripadman's nattuvangam and Ramesh Babu's mridangam accompaniment gave the right support.
Tulsidas's ‘Haguna Khani Janaki Sita' with Arun's score in raga Vitapi became a cry of anguish portraying Rama, inconsolable on finding Sita missing from the ashram, asking all the creatures of the forest for any knowledge of her whereabouts, ‘Tum Dekhi Sita Mriganayani?” Without going overboard into exaggerated histrionics, Sheejith's intense presentation retained containment, the concluding moves of a distraught Rama surging ahead aimlessly while being forcibly pulled back by (the imagined) Lakshmana suggestively brought out.
Presenting a contrast in tone was Poonthanam's ‘Jnanapana', a ragamalika set by Jyothishmathi with a philosophical message of man's futile disagreement with fellowmen in the short span one shares with others in this life. The dancer's interpretation with the singer's raga changes through ‘sruti bhedam' touches made for an unusual blend.
Lalgudi Jayaraman's tillana in Revathi with dance composition by Leela Samson, ushered in the final moments of what became a rare evening transcending the boundaries of the conventional music/dance relationship.