A crowded Delhi calendar saw performances that appealed to a range of audiences, from literary connoisseurs to uninitiated school children.

The two-day Champu festival under the aegis of Odissi Akademi was Kavita Dwibedi’s refreshingly new idea. The opening at India Habitat Centre, flagged off by Chittaranjan Mallia’s paper reading on Champu as a historical/musical/literary genre, was substantiated by demonstrations from Kavisurya Baladev Rath’s “Kishorechandrananda Champu” by Guru Ramhari Das, Dr. Sangeeta Gosain, Guru Nimakanta Routray and Guru Sukanta Kumar Kundu. The combined music and emotionally evocative poetry surrounding the Radha/Krishna love, with Lalita as the sakhi enabling the coming together of the lovelorn pair, saw demonstrated examples of lyrics like “Ke Hela re”, “Kharab tu hela re”, “Gollani to Golla”, “Nua Natapata”, “Bhangi Chaha” in several ragas like Kedar, Todi, Vajrakanti, Kamodi, Kedarkamodi, Kafi, Jhinjhoti, Panchamvarali, etc., along with Chhandavritta and what is called ‘matrika prabandha’ in Sangita Ratnakara. More like a musical opera, these compositions with a strong element of theatre make for excellent material to translate into dance.

The second evening saw the best group expression in Madhavi Mudgal’s choreography based on the ‘ka, kha’ champu-s, “Ke hela re” and “Kharap tu helu re” set to Saveri and Kedar respectively. A smitten Radha beyond words after glimpsing Krishna is teased by her sakhis, for longing for the unattainable. “If you play with a snake, you are bound to be bitten”. The analogy was visualised through a variety of interpretative dance, imaginatively blending abhinaya with nritta. Avoiding predictable group arrangements, the ably-trained dancers gave an involved rendition. While the Last ‘ha’ champu as a prayer in mangalacharan by Madhavi was evocative, the ‘la’ champu “Lila he nidhi” similar to Jayadeva’s “Kuru Yadunandana” was somewhat tame in the sambhoga sringar message. Despite the very high pitched tara sthayi, it was Manikuntala Bhowmik in the combined male/female singing who held the music — vocalist Poornachndra Majhi’s sahitya undecipherable.

The “Madhure manda manda...” champu in Kamodi portraying Krishna/Radha togetherness, with dance conceptualisation by Nilamani Routray, saw the guru’s students dance with finished grace. But the visualisation with sakhi-s framing Krishna and Radha in frozen posture after posture was stagy and cloying. The ‘ha’ champu describing Krishna’s beauty “Hari ambara prana sanga” smoothly moved on to moksha as finale.

For a lay audience

One appreciated the DIAF effort at Lalit Kala Akademi’s Kala Kuteer regional centre, where Mayura Kavutvam by Yashoda Thakore and Simhanandani by Veena Murty Vijay were presented in the open on a platform under the tree, with ‘aam janata’ attending it. Yashoda’s excellent powerpoint lecture with visuals on Guru Acharyalu, who in the 1950s reinvented Mayura Kavutvam, with the peacock drawing traced through the dancer’s footsteps executed on a floor as canvas covered with rice powder — while informative and to the point — should have added an abridged Hindi translation for the fifty-odd little school children, for whom the proceedings were Greek. Part of temple ritual performed by the Andhra Kalavantulu (devadasis), Acharyalu brought this into the Kuchipudi repertoire. Both this and Simhanandini where the image of a lion is traced through the dancing feet, are recreations, Acharyalu influenced by Bharatarnavam text (7th chapter).

The demonstration by Yashoda, perhaps restrained by the carpeted floor just below the stage, lacked the unabashed virtuosic joy of Kuchipudi. On the platform, the peacock, except for the beak and head, was fairly well traced. Far better was Veena Murthy’s student Shama Krishna’s Simhanandini, historically traced to ritual in the Kalahasti temple, where the combined dance and drawing, amalgamating six different talas, had the melodic singing in a talamalika comprising Suddha Saveri, Kurinji, Reetigowla, Poorvikalyani and Shankarabharanam. The lion drawing was neatly traced.

The evening ended with Kathak by Pandit Birju Maharaj’s granddaughter Shinjini, who, in what was her maiden solo appearance, revealed supreme grace and delicacy in movement presenting Kathak intra-forms. Still in the formative training years, she shows promising qualities (plus the family legacy), should she take it up with full commitment.

Able to attend only the second evening of Rag Virag’s Duet Dance festival, it was heart-warming watching tiny tots present the Saraswati vandana. The duet “Samvet” by Gauri Diwakar and Rachana Yadav, saw the coming together of two different but complementing talents, presenting a composition visualised by Aditi Mangaldas whose Drishtikon Dance Foundation Repertory includes both dancers. Gauri with cutting edge chakkars and hands slicing through the air in graceful lines, and Rachana whose pirouettes and hand movements have a softer, more rounded thrust, are both fine dancers — their differences highlighting each other in a joyous twosome. If Earth in its groundedness was best expressed in Gauri’s definitive agility, Water in its undulating waves and Wind whispering the scent of flowers, bringing the ache of love in separation, with the vocalist in Darbari Kanada echoing the sentiment, had its representation in Rachana, the speed and raging power of Fire being expressed in the tarana, in which both dancers combined. The uniformly turned out musicians and the costume elegance were noteworthy.

The next pure nritta by father and son Praveen Gangani and Mukesh Gangani saw fine nine-and-a-half-matra bandishes by the former, and a fevered pace of Teen tala bandishes and jugalbandi, with both participating. Mukesh has correct nritta but needs to develop that inner feel for movement.