Jugalbandi in dance is more challenging than it is in music. It is more than meeting of musical sensibilities
A refreshing facet that is steadily emerging in classical dance is the opening up of traditional dance genre in regions other than their own and the meeting of two styles on a common ground. Earlier we had ‘jugalbandi’ only in the arena of music; now it has expanded to dance as well. It is as tricky as it is exciting; as restraining as gratifying; as ego-less as ego-centric and so on. On the other hand, for the audience it is solely a pleasurable exposure to variety and a learning experience of appreciating dance in its varied forms.
Here was a case of Odissi meets Bharatanatyam, where ideally both retain their specific identity with the nuances of the genre intact and yet making for a holistic, wholesome treat. Their individual strengths notwithstanding, Sharmila Mukherjee (Odissi) and Soundarya Srivatsa (Bharatanatyam), attempted to mingle and meld with each other and for most part presented a unifying picture. Both were not exceptionally expressive as the strain of trying to accommodate each other was evident on their countenance and whatever came out by way of mukhabhinaya was refined artistry, like for instance in the Parvathi-Lakshmi verbal dual set to the devaranama of Purandaradasa. The pauses, obviously arising out of a wait for one style avarthanam to be over before the other genre takes over are actually to be obliterated through careful study of movements and closures; similarly, gyrating in and out in alternating dance sequence and appearing together to complete the presentation should not be designed, it should be done so inconspicuously that the audience should be put to wonder at the change of artistes on stage. It is common for Odissi to pace the footwork a wee bit faster in order to gel with Bharatanatyam, which is what Sharmila did, but then circling behind one another on the stage, she was oblivious of the tribhangi and measured footwork in her gait, the trademark of Odissi repertoire. But for her costume that defined the nature of the dance, the curves and sways were often found to be missing. Soundarya on the other hand could have imbibed a little more grace into her form rather than exercise it out like aesthetic calisthenics.
The tarana in Nata Bhairavi (Pt. Ravi Shankar creation) had the accompanists stealing the show and it was clearly the vocal surpassing the dance. Vocalists Ganesh (Odissi) and Vasudha (Bharatanatyam) were simply superb in their rendition of the tarana with excellent swar bol and the footwork of both the dancers could not hold a candle to the dynamic expression of the vocalists’ tones. Choreography for the tarana was devoid of vivacity, but for some hastabhinaya, there was not much of a display of each other’s strength as dancers. Nattuvangam by Shankuntala Prabha was feeble while Kishore Ghose on the pakhawaz, Gurumurthy on the mridangam, Srinivas on the sitar and more than all the other instrumentalists, Nitesh on the bamboo were compelling.