Recital Purvadhanashree revelled in the sensuous grace of Vilasini Natyam.
Resurrected in 1995 by dancer-researcher Swapnasundari with the support of poet and culture-historian Dr. Arudra, Vilasini Natyam as it has been named, refers to the female dance tradition practised by temple dancers or ‘Vilasinis' in Andhra Pradesh.
Essentially slow-paced and graceful, Vilasini Natyam celebrates the power of expression.
The yesteryear dancers used to sing the song before interpreting it, sometimes using only the eyes to convey the meaning. They also used the ‘seated-abhinaya' technique (mezhuvani) for padams.
There are many movements unique to Vilasini Natyam such as the basic standing posture in which one leg is straight and the other is with a bent knee (kunchita pada), the use of forward and backward neck movements (prakampita greeva bheda), the use of the wrist flexions, the extensive use of ardhachandra and shikhara mudras in nritta.
Swapnasundari has added more rigour and rhythm to the nritta to suit the proscenium.
Having learnt from the master-craftsperson herself, Purvadhanashree, Swapnasundari's senior disciple, revelled in the sensuous grace of Vilasini Natyam. Her piercing abhinaya style is much like her guru's and draws in the rasika to be a part of the performance. Her plea to Koppeshwara of Palivela in the ateeta- eduppu Bhairavi varnam (‘Samivinara,' Adi) was so immediate and so real, that one felt the connection immediately.
While the varnam commenced with a soft rhythmic jati of muzhu-mandi adavus and movements set in the off-beat, the pallavi and anupallavi lyrics were taken as one unbroken passage in which the friend describes the deity and requests Him to listen to her. The mukthayi and chittuswaras had simple rhythms with clear footwork, but it was the depth of abhinaya that made the most impact.
Post charanam, the sakhi describes her lovelorn friend in detail, a sort of top-to-toe description, that was done with much relish and involvement, and assures him of her yearning. It was a bright, confident display with the eroticism embedded therein handled matter-of-factly.
The 45-minute recital for Suswaraa had two ancient compositions from the temple concert repertoire, the other being the opening Sabda Pallavi (Manirangu, Adi) that is essentially a nritta piece paying home to ‘Parameshwara.' Soulful singing by K. Venkateswaran enhanced the abhinaya at every level. Lalgudi Ganesh (mridangam) and S. Vasudevan (nattuvangam) provided accurate support, while Muruganandam (violin) accompanied the singer adequately.