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Updated: May 26, 2011 16:26 IST

Sattriya's spectacle

MADHAVI PURANAM
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Sattriya dancer
Sattriya dancer

SPIC MACAY brought into light Assam's Sattriya dance form in their recent events.

A recent SPIC MACAY programme in the city drew one's attention to a classical dance form of Assam which originates from the 15th century dramatic tradition of ankiya bhaona nurtured in the sattras (monasteries) of the state. In the 17th{+h} century, there was an introduction of dance numbers outside the dramatic presentation, to be presented as part of prayer services and festivals in Assam and thus developed the Sattriya dance independent of bhaona. The repertoire of Sattriya consisted of numbers predominantly based on the dance element involved in the entry, exit and movement of the characters in the drama (ankiya bhaona) on stage and till recently, was performed by the bhokots (monks).

Today the form is gaining popularity with a wide variety of numbers in its repertoire and the performers emerging from outside the Sattra context, with many women having taken up the form.

The distinctive features of the graceful Sattriya dance technique are the ulah, the wavy movements, doop, the dipping and bobbing, hali, the horizontal movements, citika, the springing movements, etc. and the high spiritual content rooted in the sattra tradition. The Sattriya technique is inlaid in the mati akharas which are the basic steps/exercise patterns in the training of a Sattriya dancer which incorporate the entire grammar of the movement of Sattriya and form the foundation of the training of a Sattriya dancer.

The SPIC MACAY performance brought out this history and development of Sattriya dance to the dance lovers of the city. The revered Bayanacharya Ghanakanta Bora's invocatory number paid obeisance to Lord Krishna and Srimanta Sankaradeva (the Vaishnavite saint, reformer, musician and composer of dance dramas and songs who lived from 1449 to 1568 and is the originator of the ankiya bhaona) with the music set to kirtana rendition.

The masculine dance sectionsof Sattriya repertoire were demonstrated by a petite and yet vibrant Sanghamitra Bora.She presented the ramdani, a pure dance number with elaborate and intricate foot work and decorative hand gestures starting with a slow rhythm and gradually culminating into fast movements.  This was followed by geetar nac in which the dancer depicted the divine beauty of Lord Krishna playing with his cowherd companions in the fields.

The feminine dance section of Sattriya repertoire was showcased by Seeta Rani Hazarika with the cali ramdani - a pure dance sequence and an eloquent illustration of a song taken from Sankardeva's Ankia Nat, Keli Gopal. The concluding presentation by the talented Anwesa Mahanta and the group was an excerpt from Sankaradeva's Parijata Haran elaborating Satyabhama's immense disappointment with Krishna at presenting the Parijata flower to Rukmini and the Lord comforting her with his promise to gift the entire Parijata tree to her.

The dancers gave a good account of their skills in executing the well choreographed piece.

The interaction with the dancers which followed the lecture demonstration was also valuable as it brought into discussion a variety of aspects of the dance form and answered to the queries of the spectators. SPIC MACAY is indeed rendering yeoman's service by strengthening the cross cultural awareness across the nation which undoubtedly enriches the cultural fibre of every Indian.

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