Sudha Mukhopadhyaya and Sangeeta Sharma represented two varying approaches to dance in their recent recitals.
What is that alchemy of late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra that after years of watching countless renditions of his compositions, the aesthetic delight in seeing finished performances of his creations, has still not dwindled over the years? Sudha Mukhopadhyaya, a disciple of Madhavi Mudgal performing at the IIC under her guru's baton, in her well aligned mangalacharan evoked in long standing viewers a great sense of nostalgia for those early days of Odissi revival, watching the late guru's “Padavande Gananatha” stuti, visualising Kalicharan Patnaik's text sung by Balakrushna Das, before the neat Trikhandi Pranam. The Hamsadhwani pallavi, a creation of Bhubaneswar Misra, in Kelucharan's choreography used “Dhim ta tana nana tadhim ta…” as the main refrain, weaving in nritta sequences in all the rhythmic gaits (jatis) full of a mesmerising musicality and lyricism. And Sudha did full justice to the guru's visualisation. The dancer has very communicative eyes and in the “Yahi Madhava Yahi Keshava” ashtapadi, there was restraint and dignity of the uttama nayika in her portrayal of jilted Radha. Adding to the mood was the gentle pakhawaj accompaniment of the dancer's father, Gandhi Mallik. Madhavi's own dance creation on the musical base of the pallavi in Jhinjhoti, a creation of her brother Madhup Mudgal in the rare Jhula tala uses imaginatively the alasya-kanya-s, these attitudes of women indolent, leaning on the doorway, holding a mirror, smelling a lotus, decorating hair with a flower, etc. — profusely depicted on vimana-s and mukhasala-s of Odishan temples — giving to the dance form a special tone. It is strange that this composition created in the early '90s, when done with the right ukkuta recitation and manjira has an impact otherwise somewhat lost. Kavisurya Baladev Rath's Kishor Chandranana ‘La' Champu “Lila Nidhi He” is done with a certain abandon as imagined by Kelucharan of a mugdha nayika who while teasing Krishna is also persuading him to give her back her hidden sari for she is full of shame at how to appear before the public. “Lajare golli mu sori” (I am finished in shame) one would think would evoke more the image of happiness while deeply aware of her plight before society. But whatever the guru's logic for his approach, the lilt of the lyric and its tone are special and Sudha presented it with deep involvement. Sudha merits more solo performances. The musical support led by Madhavi Mudgal's manjira was of a piece with the dance.
In a totally different vein was Anveshana Dance Theatre's presentation in the ICCR Horizon series at Azad Bhavan. Entirely based on abstract movement, with Aooo chants, Nananana sounds and what have you for music, with smoking incense filling the stage, the starting with just Sangeeta Sharma and her partner in workaday clothes, evoking the feel of tribals in front of a cone shaped backdrop which resembled a tent, in the arduous precision of weight balancing, body supporting body, requiring tremendous skills and practice, wove unusual patterns of geometry — the effortlessness of the exercise speaking volumes for the rehearsed expertise of the dancers. The slow movement and the chanting music were like a prayer to Nature. Using properties like plastic sheets which created their own movement designs looking like a wall behind which dancers moved, or a snaking line of protoplasm, the group moved with great deftness. But somewhere mere movement ability and virtuosity began to tire the viewer, becoming self-indulgent after a point and it is here the dance was a letdown. The troupe has dancers with highly trained bodies. But ultimately even pure movement has to say something.