There was a surprise that made the dance performance by the students of Sri Rama Nataka Niketan, Secunderabad, different.
Sri Rama Nataka Niketan, Secunderabad, headed by the sprightly ninety-year old guru V.S. Ramamoorthy (better known as ‘Sivakami' in Kalki's Sivakamiyin Sabatham) and his daughter Manjula Ramaswamy, presented a group of eleven students, aged between 9 and 17, in a Bharatanatyam recital for the Kartik Fine Arts inaugural.
While the young girls performed with remarkable discipline and coordination (there were two national Balashree awardees amongst them-Arza Varshini and Santosh), the group choreographies that dominated the landscape seemed rather tame and ordinary.
They were all set within a similar framework of fast-paced dhurita kala dance movements where the dancers did the same thing together in different formations. They seemed to emphasise uniformity and conformity rather than artistic ability.
But there was a surprise package. Jolting the rasika from a haze of predictability contracted from watching the Pushpanjali (Amritavarshini), the Swaramaalika (Hamsanandi) and the Mahishasura Mardhini piece in ragamalika in quick succession, was the ‘Plate and the Pot Dance.' Very similar in tenor to the Kuchipudi Tarangam, this piece used verses from the Krishna Leela Tarangini, had dancers dancing to fast rhythms on the rim of a brass plate and later on mud pots while balancing brass pots and lit candles on their heads and hands.
This composition was not hybrid-Bharatanatyam; it is said to have been part of the Bharatanatyam repertoire, learnt from K.C. Varadachari and performed by the social reformer E. Krishna Iyer in 1926.
‘There was an explanation for this dance that came to be known as the ‘Cosmic Dance,' a sentence from Manusmriti, the sanskrit text on Dharma,' quotes Krishna. He created the liquid element first, energised it and then created the rest of the cosmos.
Krishna Iyer applied the same interpretation here wherein the plate is considered as the ocean and the mud pot the rest of the universe.
The presentation itself was a treat to watch.
The discipline and the skill of the dancers came alive as they performed attami (neck movements), stood still with one-legged postures and made graceful turns on the pots. Their spirit too ought to be lauded – in the middle of the ‘pot' act, one dancer lost balance. Unperturbed, she arranged the pots and candle on her head, held the candles in her palms and climbed back on the pot to continue the movements.
It was a pity that the auditorium was near empty for those brave dancers deserved a thunderous applause.