The 10-day Soorya Dance and Music Festival 2013 in Thiruvananthapuram was composed of brilliant performances by senior danseuses.
Rasikas all over Kerala were treated to a fiesta of cultural events as the 10-day Soorya Dance and Music Festival that happened simultaneously at different districts across the state, with Thiruvananthapuram being the main venue.
The dance segment of the festival in the capital city opened with a Bharatanatyam recital by Lakshmi Gopalaswamy.
Pushpanjali in raga Bowli marked the beginning of Lakshmi Gopalaswamy's recital. Swati Tirunal’s Kapi varnam ‘Sumasayaka...’, set to Roopaka tala, was the central piece. It depicted the Nayika pining for her love ‘Sarasijanabha’. Lakshmi was fluent in her abhinaya, ably knitting short narratives in between. However, her footwork often seemed displaced. Saint-poet Kanakadasa calling out to Lord Krishna of Udupi temple, ‘Baro Krishnayya!’ (Maand, Adi) was the next item. The Yashoda-Krishna interactions in the former part were only touched upon while she dramatically elaborated the main theme, in which Krishna turns towards Kanakadasa to give him darshan.
When it comes to enjoying dancing, age is no bar – the Bharatanatyam recital of septuagenarian Padma Subrahmanyam underlined this statement.
A composition by her mother Meenakshi Subrahmanyam in praise of Rama in Bhairavi, Adi, saw Padma including tales from the Ramayana in the presentation. Though the dancer's movements were heavily restricted by her age, it was the grace and involvement that she brought in the abhinaya, that made her recital a delight to watch.
‘Thandanana Ahi...’, a composition of Annamacharya, was the concluding item. While Padma concentrated on the abhinaya pieces, it was through her grand-niece and disciple Mahathi Kannan, that she showcased her choreography skills.
Her recital was thoughtfully imagined, well planned and elegantly executed.
The recital began with Anjali followed by her signature ‘Mayur Alarippu’, blending the movements of a peacock into the dance form. Being the bi-centenary year of Swati Tirunal, she presented his ashta ragamalika composition ‘Pannagendra Sayana...’ in Roopaka tala as the central piece instead of a varnam. Eight statements of the nayika in eight ragas, and the way Rama detailed each line showcased the versatility of an actor and the brilliance of a choreographer.
The recital had a profound conclusion through 'Sivoham', in praise of Lord Siva set in Charukesi, Adi.
Alarmel Valli opened with an invocation titled ‘Adithyaya Namasthubhyam’, celebrating the glory of Surya, using verses in Sanskrit and Tamil from traditional texts. Eventually, she moved on to the central piece of the recital, ‘Kaana Aavalaanen...’, a varnam jointly composed by herself and Prema Ramamurthy, set in ragamalika and in Roopaka tala. Though the varnam revolves around the familiar theme of sensual and spiritual love of nayika towards the lord, Valli made it unique by interpreting the nayika as one who finds the lord in various aspects of nature and who shares the rapture of being in the midst of the architectural marvel of Chidambaram.
After four days of continuous Bharatanatyam, it was a welcome change to have a Kathak recital. But alas, Rani Khanam could not bring out the kind of charisma that the rasikas would expect from performances like these.
Rani opened her recital with 'Ardhanareeswara' and went on demonstrating the various technicalities of Kathak. As the focus switched to demonstration, the performance altogether failed to impress. Fortunately she was not at a total loss, as she managed to pull out a crisp Jugalbandi segment and also a motivating 'Ghungroo Namaskar' towards the end, in which the audience too joined her by keeping the time with her.
Rani also presented ‘Mohe Chedo Na...’, a tarang in raga Kalavati and ‘Chhap Tilak Sab...’, a Sufiana Kathak composition by Hazrat Amir Khusro.
Starting with ‘Amba Sthuthi’, an invocation piece in praise of goddess Parvathi, Lavanya Ananth moved on to the popular Tanjore quartet varnam, ‘Sami Ninne Korinanura...’ in ragamalika, Roopaka. A maiden's yearning to be united with Lord Brihadeeswara being the theme, Lavanya presented it by touching upon the sensual as well as spiritual aspects of the heroine's love. Jatis set by the percussionist M.S. Sukhi had a unique feel as they were set to a mid-tempo, catchy pace at times.
Priyadarsini Govind was at her best as the meticulously executed nritha and the punctiliously woven abhinaya contributed to her performance par excellence. The invocation piece, in praise of Lord Narayana riding on Garuda, itself had its uniqueness as she symmetrically balanced the postures depicting Garuda. Priyadarsini chose to perform the same varnam performed by Lavanya Ananth the previous day.
Priyadarsini's narration was far more mature and the way she detailed each passage made the act more intense. Laced with animated postures in between, she ably conveyed the nayika's state of being a lover and a devotee. Jatis set by G. Vijayaraghavan suited well the style of the dancer.
Priyadarsini's skills in abhinaya blossomed further in the next piece in which she portrayed a khandita nayika in ‘Enthenthu Vechikirai…’ in Surutti, Misra Chapu.
The stage was set and as the lights faded in, the audience got to see the little Krishna stepping to the tune of ‘Dhoom machale...’. This was the introductory scene of the music ballet 'Krishna', conceived and choreographed by Shobana. Episodes from the life of Krishna being the theme, Shobana relied heavily on long narrations, melodramatic dialogues and projected texts to tell the story.
A mix of film songs, album songs and some instrumental music formed the background score. The dancer's expressions and actions often looked silly and immature.
Of course, there were some nice dance sequences and some eye-catching moments.
In any case, Shobana's 'Krishna' ballet was not the apt choice to conclude a festival that adhered to classicism.
The festival was organised by Soorya in association with Satikanta Guha Foundation, West Bengal and various other organisations in respective districts.