Gayathri’s sense of timing was laudable. Mridangam artist Nellai D. Kannan and dancer-nattuvanar Aadith Narayan rendered exciting statements of rhythm.

The air in the cozy Kamakoti Gana Mandir of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha fairly crackled with crisp-as-pappad rhythm as three artists, ace mridangam artist Nellai D. Kannan, dancer-nattuvanar Aadith Narayan and young dancer Gayathri Rajaji, tackled Guru Adyar K. Lakshman’s clever jati compositions.

They commenced with an unusual Tisra Dhruva Alaarippu composed by Guru Lakshman, and through the piece one could sense how the rhythm-mongers, Kannan and Aadith, relished the challenge of an off-beat composition. The ensuing Bhairavi pada varnam (‘Mohamana’, Rupaka, Ponniah Pillai) gave them enough opportunity with Guru Lakshman’s exciting statements of rhythm. There is no doubt that Aadith’s delivery was electric, but one cannot take away from the genius who composed the brief yet arresting compositions.

Unexpected variations, as in the first jati where the sollus in the second speed had a subtle usi-feel or in the second sequence, where variations in speed occurred within each line of syllables, or the six-matra gap and the gati-bedam finish in the fifth jati, each had a ‘wah-wah’ factor. There was applause every time, and that was not only for the dancer’s natural sense of timing but for the composer, the mridangam artist and the nattuvanar put together.

As for Gayathri’s execution, it left much to be desired, with hardly any araimandi nor energy. She deserves the benefit of doubt though as her tall frame must have found it difficult to adjust to a small stage.

Her miming skills are however potent, and her liquid eyes hold much promise. As a heroine yearning for Tiruvarur Tyagesa in ‘Mohamana’ (Bhairavi, Rupaka, Poniah Pillai), her suffering was restrained, as no doubt the Kalakshetra-bani interpreted it, but the talent was there to see as she gestures to Tyagesa to stop Kama from bothering her, with her eyes.

Gayathri’s ‘Daari Joocucunnadi’ padam (Sankarabaranam, misra chapu, Moovalur Sabapathy Iyer) choreographed by Nithyakalyani in the Kalanidhi-style, that emphasises mukha abhinaya, had no such inhibitions. The friend tries to tell Rajagopala about the heroine’s love for him. She describes the heroine's excitement and anticipation as she opens the door; and midway through the kolam decoration how she gets lost in her thoughts of him and laughs to herself, realising later that she has smeared her cheeks with the rice powder. Gayathri’s eyes were eloquent.

While Murali Parthasarathy (vocal) seemed low energy during the first half of the varnam and picked up to deliver an enjoyable charanam in Bhairavi, besides the Sankarabharanam padam and Hindolam thillana (Adi, Madurai N. Krishnan), Eshwar Ramakrishnan (violin) was consistently melodious. Nellai Kannan was enthusiastic with the rhythm, tip-toeing otherwise, but Aadith who added punch to the rhythm ought to have reined in his enthusiasm during the padam.

Gayathri is a young dancer to watch out for.