Clear adavus, jati korvais and impeccable footwork added to the visual delight.

It was dusk and darkness had set in. A brass oil lamp cast its shimmering glow on the portrait of Rukmini Devi in the altar at the Kalakshetra auditorium. The strains of the tambura filled the air. A diagonal streak of light flashed across the stage and there stood Alarmel Valli in a red and green coloured costume. Nandini Anand started singing ‘Adityaya Namasthubyam’ from Adi Sankara’s Aditya Kavacham and Valli danced her way invoking the sun god and soon, as if it was dawn again, the divine form emerged in his resplendent hues. The visual vocabulary which unfolded – the humming of the bees fluttering around the lotus, the blooming of the lotus when the first rays of the sun falls on it, the bees drinking the nectar, the seven horses of the sun god in all their majesty and the picturisation of the colours of saffron, red and yellow, was a visual delight.

The Adi tala varnam in ragam Sankarabharanam ‘Swamikku Samanam Evaradi’ portrayed in detail the glory of Lord Rajagopala of Mannargudi. Nature continued to be the focus, so the metaphor of blossoming flowers, the breeze caressing the leaves, the meandering stream, birds intoxicated by the melodious music emanating from the Lord’s flute besides the descriptions of the Lord’s attributes were the sancharis portrayed.

With her petite frame and graceful movements, clear adavus, hand gestures, the crystal clear jati korvais blended seamlessly with the song. There was perfect harmony between the dancer’s impeccable footwork and the sollu kattus of Vasudevan (nattuvangam).

A brief depiction of a nayika’s anguish and isolation from her Lord, as depicted through Sangam poetry, preceded the javali ‘Telisivagalella,’ which portrays an angry heroine. The anger of the woman, the excitement of the nayaka adorning himself before sneaking out to woo the other woman, their amorous dalliance were depicted with rich poetic images.

Valli spoke about how her guru would always say ‘Sarakku romba mukhiyam, minukku konjamathan irukkanum.’ Valli dedicated her performance to the memory of Shobana Swamy, her nattuvanar for 15 years.

Her strong foundation in the Pandanallur bani has indeed given Valli a lot of ‘sarakku’ by way of grammar of dance, but it is also her ‘minnukku’ which captivates the viewer’s imagination and explains her continued popularity. For a viewer who is familiar with her dance, there is a craving to see more elaborate explorations given the richness of her poetic imagery. It would be interesting to see her doing her abhinaya in a seated position bringing out the inherent musicality of her school of music by way of long sancharis which would delight the rasikas.

The team comprising Nandini Anand ( vocal support) with Ganesh Acharya (mridangam) and K.P. Nandini (violin) enriched the evening’s performance.