The focus of ‘70 years of Indian classical dances' was on the evolution of the art form.

Mumbai witnessed a microcosm of Indian classical dances when maestros assembled at Nalanda Dance Research Centre for three days, recently. During marathon sessions in a seminar on ‘70 years of Indian classical dances,' they highlighted significant changes that have taken place in traditional classical dances in post-independence India.

C.V. Chandrasekhar, a disciple of Rugmini Devi Arundale, reminisced his days in his alma mater and the great gurus who had groomed him. He chose Papanasam Sivan's ‘Swami Naan undan adimai' in Nattakurinji. The presence of the septuagenarian dancer with 65 years of experience on stage was felt immediately as he broke into the first jathis, unusually intricate and prolonged but aesthetically remarkable. Interestingly, the subsequent jathis were shorter and Chandrasekhar took care to demonstrate the exquisite beauty of short jathis in a varnam.

Accomplished musician

By selecting the seventh Ashtapadi, ‘Mamiyam chalitha vilokya,' which portrays Krishna's sorrow on being separated from Radha, he exhibited the propriety expected of a male dancer. An accomplished musician himself, Chandrasekhar had set it in Ahirbhairav.

Kanak Rele gave a short account of her attempts to enrich the repertoire of Mohiniyattam by culling out characters and anecdotes from mythology even while bringing out their relevance in contemporary life. ‘Oru Makal,' excerpted from the Aham poems, depicts the laments of a mother whose only daughter elopes. Set to Saveri raga, the number highlighted the dancer's histrionic dexterity. Admittedly, a good number of Dr. Rele's choreographies are woman-centred.

An outstanding piece is Kubja, on the hunchback, a servant of Kamsa. The Oriya poem was translated by the late Dr. Ayyappa Panicker. It was set in ragamalika. An alluring piece of nritta set in Samantha Malahari raga peculiar to Kerala, was set to an improvised version of the Kerala rhythm panchaari of six beats. Dr. Rele's disciple Madhuri Desmukh staged this number quite enchantingly. The opening piece on Ganapathy, presented by another disciple Megha Mohad, also showcased the choreographic ingenuity of Dr. Rele. The concluding item was a Marathi poem set in Kamas and tisra nada.

Birju Maharaj's session opened with a vivid portrayal of Vallabhacharya's composition ‘Adharam, Madhuram' by his senior most disciple Saswati. The focus of his performance was a demonstration in which he showed the efficacy of rhythm syllables in communicating myriad incidents in daily life. These included a conversation between two people, gaits of animals and birds and even a game of hockey!

Kumkum Mohanti's performance touched the vital aspects relating to the evolution of the modern pattern of Odissi under her guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. The Pallavi proved a fabulous elaboration of Hamsadwani. Choreographed in 1978, it highlighted the exquisite beauty of the team work of Mahapatra and Bubaneswar Misra. So was the Ashtapadi ‘Keshi madanam udaram,' which was composed in 1967 for an all-India seminar of ‘Gitagovindam,' organised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi in Delhi.

Vivid portrayal

‘Braju Ku Chora' in Anandabhairavi provided an excellent piece for abhinaya, in which Kumkum portrayed Yasoda's efforts to put Lord Krishna to bed. An Oriya poem ‘Lajare Sarigolli aaj sajani' demonstrated the choreographic skill of the danseuse.

Kuchipidi, which had undergone a vital transformation into a solo dance form, underwent further innovation by the dancer-couple Raja and Radha Reddy. Umpteen instances of lasya-tandava combinations were presented by the duo in perfect unison. Subsequent pieces such as a dream sequence in ‘Usha Parinayam' and a tarana (tillana) in Natabhairavi were proof of their creativity.

An exhaustive demonstration of the nuances of Manipuri was presented by Darsana Jhaveri and her team. Especially noteworthy was the drum dance of ‘pung cholam' staged by Mangal Singh. The lasya and tandava delineation in the typical Manipuri style and also portrayal of ‘vipralambha nayika,' ‘khanditha nayika' and so on by Darsana, Gnaneswari Devi and Droupathi Devi brought to limelight the possibilities of abhinaya in the dance style.

Keywords: classical dance