Ayona Bhaduri and Shashwati Garai Ghosh with their Odissi and Anuradha Thakur with her Kathak delighted audiences.
The two-day Monsoon Festival at the IIC featured solo Kathak and an Odissi duet by young dancers who merit more frequent performing platforms. Guru Rajendra Gangani's long time disciple Anuradha Thakur, a highly competent dancer, makes up for her diminutive presence with an inner energy and immaculate rhythmic command with pinpointed freezing on the sam, all of which give her Kathak sparkle. She chose Ashtamangal tala of 11 matras for her nritta delineation, and each segment of a crisp one hour recital from thaat to paran presented jewel-like compositions.
Tiny kavit woven into thaat, uthan, parmelu, tihai, kavits, the chakradar with 39 chakkars, projecting rare cutting edge perfection in rhythm and footwork, and an elongated starting kayda showing stamina, and clarity, with not a hint of a smudged rhythmic syllable anywhere, established the dancer's grasp over the rhythmic idiom straight away.
Through the Radha/Krishna viraha, the dancer aimed to catch the eternal human yearning for a higher consciousness. The start with gat nikas and mayur gat ushering in the rains was evocative. As the thumri singing began “Shyama bina mohe suna lage”, there were some delicate moments of metaphor — of the raindrops like the nayika's teardrops and the rumblings of thunder echoing the tremors in her heart lamenting the missing Shyam. But every musical statement interspersed with tiny kavits did not allow for greater intensity in the build up of mood, which got severed once too often with unrelated nritta and kavit reliefs. In the drut section set to Teen tala, Anuradha was again in her element with fine ginti tihais, and compositions with meend and gamak in bols well captured in the dance. With Yogesh Gangani for tabla support, the pure dance part of the recital was very effective. Singer Vijay Parihar was adequate.
Ayona Bhaduri, a graduate from Nrityagram Bangalore, and Shashwati Garai Ghosh, groomed initially under Sutapa Talukdar and Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, are both now under the guidance of dancer/choreographer Sharmila Biswas. A striking pair, the two complement each other in more ways than one, and in a duet choreographed and designed by Sharmila, the pair sparkled. What struck the viewer at once was the aesthetically turned out dancers groomed to scrupulously clean Odissi anga suddha, the supreme grace of head, torso and lower limbs moving in opposing directions projecting a fluid three-bend line — never jerky. Excellent understanding of stage space and choreography where varying hand movements complementing through similarity and contrast created aesthetic lines and designs in space along with the body silhouettes — making every moment look uniquely different from the usual.
Set to Prafulla Kar's music, Ramashtakam in a few movement strokes captured episodic images from the life of the epic hero, the two dancers in frequently changing roles presenting a mini theatrical narrative, with telling references to Jatayu moksha and the building of the bridge.
The item of the day was Shiva/Parvati shabda where the Tandava of Shiva and Lasya of Parvati were not, despite the verses devoted to them, a gender division as a depiction of two contrasting tones of movement, as complementing attitudes in all dance. Inspired by Orissan traditions like ghanta mardala and the mrudanga vadan of Ganjam with which Sharmila has worked closely, the musical base was a creation of Ramahari Das. Correctly opting for Shankarabharanam (the abharanam or ornament of Shankara or Shiva), he made the verse descriptions form two banks on either side of an anchoring refrain from Shabda Nrutya “Tam Thai Taka Thai, Taka Tadhi Inda Thai”. The heavy bols based on the mridanga and mardala — the latter contributed by Dhaneswar Swain — and the dancers' movements, now indicative of power and vigour and now seductively soft, made for a truly delightful item. This was originally conceived as a solo by Sharmila and has been well adapted for a duo.
The brief Mian ki Malhar item on features of nature, an apology for legitimising the Monsoon Festival platform, with its English narration (conceived as a prelude for a longer item) was neither here nor there.
The finale of a Meera bhajan patented in M.S. Subbalakshmi's rendition in Darbari Kanada, with Debashish Sirkar's instrumental interludes for dance elaboration of Vishnu's saving of Draupadi's honour, rescuing Prahalad and saving Gajendra from the crocodile's jaws, while again in the narrative tradition was very aesthetically conceived.