The performances by guru Rhadha and her disciple, Tara Raman, were commendable.
For the Hamsadhwani NRI Music and Dance Festival dedicated to vidushi D.K.Pattammal, veteran dancer-Guru Rhadha and her student Tara Raman presented a Bharatanatyam recital that she dedicated to her teacher, Guru Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai in his birth centenary. ‘Jayasudha Purivasa' (Kedaram), the signature Todayamangalam opening for a performance of the Vazhuvoor style of Bharatanatyam heralded the start of Rhadha's performance, which turned out to be a marathon 135 minutes of undiluted, vintage Vazhuvoor. Graceful, rounded movements, catchy rhythms, short nritta segments, muzhu mandi adavus (fully seated stances) and signature eye movements, were some of the striking features of Rhadha's style.
However, it is the dancer's stamina, literally and otherwise, that made the biggest impression. Having spent the early part of her life and career under the shadow of a celebrity sister Kamala, Rhadha had to wait for her turn. It was her staying power that helped her establish herself as a guru and a performer. The same staying power keeps her fit and agile in her late sixties and sets her apart from many contemporaries and younger dancers today.
Rhadha's Ramayana ragamalika kriti ‘Bhavayami Raghuramam' was a 50-minute solo enactment of the epic. Many little incidents, interspersed with jathis and chittaswarams, came alive with the dancer's mature role play. As she went through Rama's life in the charanam sahitya starting with killing of the demon Subahu, Rhadha always stopped to provide the context. In reference to Rama freeing Ahalya from the curse, the story of Indira's misbehaviour and Sage Gautama's anger were retold. Similarly, the Sita Swayamvaram scene, the Kaikeyi- Manthara conversation, the Mareecha episode and the drawing of the Lakshman rekha after Sita's hurtful words to Lakshmana, put the events in context. Rhadha did not tire while detailing them and kept the pace of the kriti at an even keel.
With minimal breaks in between, Rhadha performed ‘Jagadodharana' (Kapi), ‘Yaarukkagilum Bhayama' (Begada), ‘Natanam Aadinar' (Vasantha) and a thillana (Kedaram, Adi). The dancing Nataraja piece brought out Rhadha's agility and effervescence. The ‘original' choreography by guru Ramiah Pillai was a very vigorous one and packed with little but telling gestures like the small wave of the pathakam mudra and a slight slant of the torso to show Nataraja's hair flying.
Tara Raman, a highly-poised disciple, also accompanied Rhadha that evening. Her footwork and grace were commendable but her skirt-costume seemed to restrict her movements. Guru and sishya performed the finale (a Vazhuvoor original) that was marked for its long drawn out mei adavus. It capped a long but tasteful evening of good music and dance. The orchestra had Adit Narayan (nattuvangam), Nandini Anand (vocal), Dhananjayan (mridangam) and M.S. Kannan (violin), a committeed group who followed and enhanced every mood in the recital.