Both Ashwathy and Srikanth displayed exemplary dexterity in communicating with each other during their recital.
Dancer couples are not new as duet performers, more so not in Bharatanatyam. Kalakshetra has been known for its endless dancer-couple graduates who continue to pursue the art form together, however odd or even. It is a sheer pleasure to watch good couples if the talents of both complement each other on stage. The last day of the Music Academy’s dance festival had Srikanth and Aswathy present a duet. One must congratulate them for the united effort they invested in the show to give a great experience.
While invocatory prayers are mandatory to bring in the mood and the ambience before a performance, off late they’ve begun turning into full-fledged concerts. Hariprasad’s invocation ended up being more of a mini-concert as everyone eagerly waited for the dancers to emerge on to the stage. The actual dance invocation, Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s ‘Srimahaganapatim’ came in only later with Srikanth and Aswathy on stage. From the very beginning the most visible signs were those of being in total chemistry in their mirrored-movements which fed on each other’s talent eventually. With over-powering aaharyam, as they danced to the commanding jatis rendered by Kuchipudi dancer turned nattuvanar
Jaikishore Mosalikanti, their well-coordinated exchange of ideas was impressive. The next item, ‘Rama Neeve,’ a varnam in ragam Kharaharapriya composed by Thenmatham Narasimhacharlu had both the
dancers in a comfortable dialogue through the course of their performance. With good harmony in their impeccable nritta sequences, Srikanth brought in the theatricality of conversation that worked very well as they enacted various tales of Rama’s leelas.
Narrating the story of Bhakta Ramadas and his anguish in the prison; it was a sight to see Srikanth mime with just the right amount of poignancy the character deserved. They continued to describe the stories of Sita and Ahalya and other tales of Rama’s beauty and valour. While everyone has watched Srikanth perform his famed ‘strivesham’ solos, it was refreshing
to watch him in a completely contrasting character as a male dancer with more competence in both nritta and abhinaya, a few edges over Aswathy also.
Every time a powerful jati ended with the dancers thumping footwork on the stage, a strange waft of smoke went up the dance floor, like some engineered special effect. It took some time to realise that Srikanth and Aswathy were actually dancing on a dusty dance floor the Academy had provided them. Though we would all like to think that the dust of Rama’s feet is divine, in an overwhelming bout of spiritual ecstasy, it bothered both the performers and the rasikas to watch this little act of pollution unfold in front of their eyes. Srikanth and Aswathy concluded their performance with what was announced as a ‘Dhrupad’ in ragam Purvi composed by Thirugokarnam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar.
Having neither the format of a tillana nor the complex structure of what is popular as ‘Dhrupad’, one wondered where the source of this was. The melodious composition also saw shades of dancer Padma Subrahmanyam’s Bharatanrityam being performed. Padma should be able to solve this mystery for us with her scholarship on the subject. At several points in the performance when the mridangam player G. Vijayaraghavan raced into a faulty count, nattuvanar Jaikishore diligently corrected the talam back to normalcy. Both the dancers displayed exemplary dexterity in communicating with each other, which most couples don’t, in their performance. The show turned out to be one of the better-off ones in themid-morning slot.
(Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and a culture critic)