The Nartaka Festival highlighted the plight of male Bharatanatyam dancers.

The inaugural of the fifth edition of the Nartaka Dance Festival, organised by Natyanjali Trust to honour its founder Jayalakshmi Sadagopan, had speakers sharing their thoughts on the plight of male dancers in today's scenario.

At the three-day festival, inaugurated by eminent musicologist Dr. Pappu Venugopal Rao, the Nartaka Award 2011 was presented to dance guru M. V. Narasimhachari for his contribution to classical and other dance forms.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Rao said there are many male Bharatanatyam dancers, but only few choose to pursue it as their career.

Lack of opportunities

Dance scholar and cultural historian Ashish Mohan Khokar said, for a long time, men have dominated the major dance forms of India except Mohiniyattom. Now, it is sad to see only a few male dancers who have distinguished themselves, except in Odissi.

“There are many male dancers in Orissa because of the Gotipua tradition, but in Tamil Nadu, they are more into group work or have turned teachers for lack of solo performance opportunities. Dancers have to undergo lot of difficulties in terms of getting a chance to perform at sabhas,” Khokar said. “There are many male dancers, but they are usually supported by their spouses or perform in groups. In December, it is difficult for the male dancers to go solo at sabhas, for many organisers believe women dancers attract larger crowds than men.

“It is, therefore, a good initiative by the Natyanjali Trust to start a dance festival for male dancers. It provides a platform and encourages passionate young dancers to exhibit their talent,” Khokar added.

Prema Satish, trustee, Natyanjali Trust, said that Nartaka would be an annual affair. There was an increase in the number of male dancers, which was a very good sign. But, for dancers, who have taken it up as a career, it was challenging, she added.

Nartaka Awardee Narasimhachari appreciated Natyanjali Trust's efforts to encourage artistic development of young dancers.

The evening concluded with Bharatanatyam performances by Renjit Babu, Madhusudhan, Jayakrishnan and Ajeesh. The items presented included ‘Ananda Natananinum Padal' on Lord Siva by Jayakrishnan, ‘Jagan Mohana Krishna' by Madhusudhan, who kept the audience glued through his beautiful footwork and expressions, ‘Sankara Rudhra Rupa' by Renjit Babu and ‘Charurishi Leelai' by Ajeesh.