Roja Kannan kept pace with guru Lakshman admirably.
Roja Kannan, leading dancer and teacher, has been acknowledged not only for her solo recitals but also for collaborations ranging from bhakti to socially relevant themes. Her recital at the Narada Gana Sabha was wholly faithful to the classical grammar and while she touched base with the precision of the Kalakshetra style she also wove her own interpretations and creativity into the fabric of her dance.
The dancer made a striking picture with her bright orange-pink costume. The aura created by her dancing was of affirmative energy and Roja’s approach sought to elevate rather than titillate. She did present sringara in its entire splendour but went the extra mile while handling vatsalya and bhakti bhava.
It is not an easy task to decipher the blueprint of Guru Adyar K. Lakshman’s jatis which can deceive an unwary learner. After the invocatory lyric dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Roja took up the Nava raga maalika varnam (Dandayudhapani Pillai) which featured some of Guru Lakshman’s most challenging and taxing jatis.
With the Guru at the helm performing nattuvangam, there seemed to be no let up in the adavus or the araimandi; there was no room for any languid pose or respite. The charanam too featured two sets of korvais for each stanza all of which added up to Roja’s intense exposition of the lengthy varnam.
The sanchari enables dancers to explore their creativity and in this piece there were many moments which gave scope for bhava.
The varnam centred round the heroine’s appeal to her friend to mediate for her to meet Lord Siva. The descriptions of the temple’s festive atmosphere, the handsome face of the lord, and the mischievous effects of the breeze were some excellent detailing by the artist. The simile of water trickling away through her fingers hinted at the ethereal nature of her love and showed off Roja’s ingenuity.
‘Muruga Muruga’ in raga Saveri offered room for some melodrama. The magic of uttering the lord’s name was narrated through the story of Kumara Gurupara. The mute child who suddenly uttered the words “poo” was highlighted with a histrionic touch. The dancer mimicked the child calling out to his parents convincingly to rounds of applause.
‘Krishna nee begane’ in Yamankalyani is an oft repeated piece by dancers. Roja chose to interpret it from the angle of the exasperated but affectionate Yasoda. The mother bathing and adorning the child were done with panache.
The in-depth treatment of these two lyrics highlighted the bhakti ingredient in the recital which was fortified by the sahitya of the brief Thillana in Paras. Roja had admirable support from Nandini Anand’s singing, Kalaiarasan’s flute and Nellai. D. Kannan’s mridangam play.