A. Lakshman's Bharatanatyam was outstanding and Aditi Mangaldas was at her best in “Immersed”.

A. Lakshman's recent Bharatanatyam performance in New Delhi was outstanding in terms of compositional excellence, rendition and concert designing. If the Alaripu following Pushpanjali in the tricky arithmetic of Sankeernatriputa (conceived by mridangist Vijayaraghavan) was brilliant in tala construct and rendition, the varnam in Nalinakanthi ragam “Inta chalamelane..” in the movement and rhythm weave, with the dancer's refined interpretative skills lucidly communicating who said what to whom, kept the audience enthralled.

The theme portrayed the male sakha asking the sakhi to persuade a quarrelsome Parvati to reunite with her spouse Shiva. Parvati's petulance, Shiva as Kapaaleeshwara in his manifestation as a Peacock and how he acquired his iconographic symbols through conquests, of Shiva as Kirata confronting Arjuna over the hunted boar and how Ravana's arrogance in lifting Mount Kailash was subdued by Him, flowed as exquisite glimpses in delicate narrative brush strokes — abhinaya closely following the music with each word and sentence made to stand out in burnished clarity. The jati teermanams were a perfect match, not to speak of the coordinated, integrated music with Sudha's singing, Sriganesh's mridangam, Shivakumar's nattuvangam and Raghuraman's flute, without faltering despite the intricate timing with syncopated moments and odd beats.

Lakshman's impeccable technique, plus stage presence are a potent combination. “Rusali Radha” in Misra Yaman portraying Nature's reflection of the estranged Radha and Krishna, was saved from a repetitive varnam mood, thanks to Lakshman's choreographic skill in counter pointing, with images of Radha/krishna ‘samyog', with Nature too mirroring joyous togetherness. Even the Divya Prabandham verse bits in portraying ‘Makhanchor Krishna' were free from clichéd dance expression. As for the Tillana in Kadanakutoohalam, it was a racy treat.

An unquenchable flame

Riding on vocal compositions by Subha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan, Aditi Mangaldas' latest creation “Immersed,” at the Kamani auditorium in New Delhi saw the audience soaked in Krishna consciousness. Sheer aesthetics of presentation apart, imaginative choreography and dance rendition showcased Aditi at her supreme best. As “Achuta”, “Manohar”, “Muralidhar”, “Vasudev”, “Anant”, “Chakradhari”, “Giridhari”, “Achal”, “Anirudha”, Keshava', “Gopinath”, Parabhrama, Parthasarathi”, “Niranjan” how did one measure this fathomless, all-pervading, very breath of life?

To frame the question is easier than transferring the enormity of this thought into dance. From the starting Jhinjhoti redolent with all the names of Krishna, to the Kafi, Marwa, Soni and Bageshri, the music with Samiullah Khan's singing and Yogesh Gangani's tabla and Mahaveer Gangani's pakhawaj and Devender Bhatt's sitar, provided melody with artistry — these young musicians over the last few years evolving into aesthetic performers. The crucial aspect of Aditi's choreography was communicating thematic ideas while making Kathak's nritta vitality with all its open-ended improvisatory dramatics, part of the dance statement without any self conscious, virtuosic stick-outs.

And the immaculate footwork in the upaj segments, the brilliance of chakkars, the tatkar punctuations, the musical ‘na dhin dhin na' tonal variations, along with compositional creativity to communicate ideas like Kaliya through a whole tukra, had Aditi immersed in the integration of Krishna and Kathak. The Kafi Bhartendu Harishchandra composition “Sanvare chhaila re nainaki othe na jaao” in the singing and the improvisations woven by the artiste had a very winsome, playful, love banter, much above the hackneyed ched/chad expression. A brief but brilliant Jhap tal percussion overture and “Aage Krishna Pache Krishna” following a brief delightful shadow play going into a meditative mood with “Aaore Piyarava” in Jog meltingly sung, with the dancer's interpretation in the seated mode in total surrender likening even death to Krishna, was the high point. The fast nritta coming after this was an anti-climax and totally redundant because the dance had nothing more to say and this needs to be edited.

Homage to Rukmini Devi

Jayalakshmi Eshwar's annual homage through Abhinaya Aradhana to her Guru Rukmini Devi mounted at the Triveni auditorium after a curtain- raiser by Anjana Rajan, also from Kalakshetra , featured young talent in different dance forms. If the pick of the solo bunch was Richa Jain's Kathak solo, with vintage Lucknow and Jaipur taleem under her gurus/parents Ravi and Nalini Jain, the best group recital was by Swapna Seshadri, Sahana and Oxana Chugueva, disciples of Saroja Vaidyanathan, — “Bho Shambho” in Revati and the Aigiri Nandini Devi Stuti with the Kadanakotoohalam Tillana rendered with laudable group and space understanding.

Lavanya Devi, Deepti Bhalla's disciple, presented a neat Mohiniattam. The very tall Russian disciples of Nritya Shilpa, Natalia Balenco, Leeda, Nastiya and Yula following the Guru Surendranath Jena Odissi School, presented, correctly all the shalabhanjika dance attitudes from Konarak temple, in “Konarak Kranti”. Natalia's Dashavatar, based on Oriya sahitya set to raga Pahadi, had an earthiness different from the more commonly used Gita Govinda text by Odissi dancers. Madhumita Raut's student Sumedha Goenka, notwithstanding bodily balance and fair rhythmic grasp in the Karaharapriya Pallavi and Natangi Krishna, in her very angular looking Odissi, lacks lyrical flowing grace.