Michiko Kanazawa was not just expressive but convincingly so.
For Michiko Kanazawa, a disciple of Daya Tomiko from Kyoto, Japan, who spent this past year in Chennai on an ICCR scholarship perfecting her Bharatanatyam technique under Shantha and V. P. Dhananjayan, her recent performance for Naada Inbam, was a graduation event of sorts. It also marked 60 years of Japan-India Diplomatic Relations and was attended by the Consul General of Japan in Chennai, dignitaries from the Japanese consulate as well as eminent personalities from the field of Bharatanatyam.
Very quickly into the programme, Michiko proved that she was no novice. She carried a sense of quiet confidence that suited the restraint inherent in the Kalakshetra style. It was a well-rehearsed show, timed accurately and finished neatly. And if there was a cultural challenge in there somewhere, it was not obvious to the eye.
The most remarkable aspect of Michiko's performance was not her meticulous execution of steps, which was in evidence, but her capacity to be in the moment. She was not just expressive but convincingly so, whether she was a nayika enjoying the beauty of Tyagesa or beseeching him not to be angry, in the Kalakshetra-original varnam, ‘Roopamu Joochi' (Thodi, Adi, Tiruvarur Muthuswami Nattuvanar and Tiger Varadachari).
She was similarly at ease in the padam, ‘Ariyaa Paruvam' (Kedaragowla, Periasami Thooran) in which the heroine Valli recalls a romantic moment with Muruga from her youth and wonders whether he would remember her.
A mix of Kalakshetra and Dhananjayan choreographies, the opening Natyanjali in ragamalika and set to pancha nadai rhythm, paying obeisance to five gods through Sanskrit slokas, was most unusual. It was one of the gurus' first forays into choreography (1969) and combined the features of Alarippu, Jatiswaram and Sabdam. The music was composed by Turaiyur Rajagopala Sharma.
Spearheaded by Guru Shantha who maintained a low profile, the musical team augmented Michiko's efforts admirably. Anusha Natarajan, senior disciple of the Dhananjayans, who was also given the credit for training the dancer, held the reins softly but firmly. She enjoyed the crisp accompaniment of Karthikeyan (mridangam). While Rijesh (violin) was the star of the evening with his enjoyable melody, Rajesh (vocal), who has an even tenor, seemed to have a rough time with the lower notes.
The team finished on a high with Nrittangahaaram (Shanmukhapriya, Adi, V.P. Dhananjayan, natya composition- Jayashree Ramanathan).