‘Nritya Sangam-Festival of Dance' in Kochi showcased the richness of Indian classical dances.

‘Nritya Sangam-Festival of Dance,' a four-day programme organised by Central Sangeet Natak Academy and Kerala Fine Arts Society in Kochi, was a mega event that featured 12 talented dancers. Despite the presence of at least three dancers on a day, it did not turn out to be a superficial show. Each dancer got almost an hour to present as many as three to four items.

The first day opened with a dazzling Odissi performance by Swaroopa Sen. In ‘Rituvasanth' and a piece on the goddess, the danseuse explored the possibilities of the dance form and its typical ‘tribhanga' pose. If her abhinaya was subtle, her body language was vibrant and dynamic.

P.T. Narendran showcased the purity and precision of the ‘Kalakshetra style' in his Bharatanatyam performance. The imagery was striking in his depiction of Shiva's procession for his marriage to Sati in ‘Kumarasambhavam.'

In terms of her style of dance, Madhuri Deshmukh's performance bore much resemblance to that of her mentor Kanak Rele. Her Mohiniyattam performance was more vibrant compared to the subdued feminine approach taken by most other dancers of the style. She portrayed Dr. Rele's magnum opus ‘Ashtanayika,' with clarity and verve.

Excellent footwork

Sattriya, a dance form that is still evolving, is sophisticated in its footwork, abhinaya and repertoire. This was demonstrated in pure dance items such as ‘Ramdani' performed by Anvesha Mahanta on the second day. In ‘Rukmini Katha,' the dancer depicted Rukmini explaining why she was keen on marrying Krishna by narrating stories about Krishna's chivalry and devotion towards his devotees. The dancer portrayed Rukmini narrating how Krishna rushed to Draupadi's rescue when Dushasana attempted to disrobe her, and also the incident of Gajendra Moksha, with high drama.

Amrita Lahiri in her Kuchipudi recital performed a ‘Durga Tharangam,' different from a ‘Tharangam' on Krishna, which is the norm. Her movements had the influence of Bharatanatyam, in an otherwise chaste and perfect performance.

Kathak dancer Parveen Gangani impressed with his neat footwork in ‘Upaj,' and his improvised exchanges with the tabla player.

On the third day, Rajkumari Sushila Devi presented an Ashtapadi in Manipuri style. The poignant nayika came alive to the passionate vibrato vocals of Sanahati Devi. Her team presented ‘Vasanth Raas' with Krishna and the gopis. The ambience of Holi was heightened with splendid costumes and dramatic lighting.

Odissi danseuse Meera Das charmed the audience with her rapid footwork and exact movements in ‘Sarvamangala Mangalye,' an invocation to the goddess.

Kalamandalam Hymavathi was the only dancer from Kerala who performed at the festival. In the Mohiniyattam varnam on the story of Usha and Anirudha, Hymavathi essayed the different moods of the nayika.

Gopal Prasad Dubey depicted with aplomb the Sun god's procession in his seven-horse chariot in ‘Chandrabhaga.' This traced the tragic story of the moon princess in the Sarkella Chau style of dance on the final day of the festival. The masked dancers' synchronised movements with the drum beats of the ‘dhol' players were remarkable.

Malti Shyam's impeccable artistry over Kathak was displayed in her flawless improvisation of teen taal. Narthaki Nataraj impressed rasikas with her amazing stage presence when she danced to Dikshithar's ‘Maragathalingam.' The striking poses, abhinaya and a couple of karanas executed with artful balance and style were noteworthy. The festival was held at Kerala Fine Arts Society Auditorium.