While Lavanya Anant was immaculate in her Bharatanatyam, Vani Madhav's Odissi captured the old vibes of what this form of dance used to be.

Lavanya Anant's immaculate Bharatanatyam adavus with a highly defined araimandi central stance, and the supple grace of her movements have always kindled a desire that such winsome physical perfection be scorched with a greater degree of inner fire, underlining linear exactitude with a tone of passion and assertiveness. And finally in her HCL Concert at Stein auditorium one had definite glimpses of strongly felt emotions, giving stark conviction to the interpretative dance.

The mallari with the Nataraja pattu verses gave indications of a charged dancer — a promise fulfilled in the Kharaharapriya varnam, a composition of late Dandayudapani Pillai. “Mohamaginen inda velaiyil,” says the nayika, confiding in her sakhi her smitten state of love and reverence for Shiva who is Nataraja the great dancer performing in the golden hall at Ponnambalam.

The dancer's interpretative elaboration wove an involved narrative of the Lord dancing as Patanjali and Vyaghrapada watched and the Gods in Heaven provided the accompaniment.

“Will he come to claim me as His?” asks the nayika yearningly of her sakhi. Interspersed between interpretative passages, the purely rhythmic links conceived by mridangist M.S. Sukhi, with assured nattuvangam by Srilatha, added the right spice to the dancer's own perfect rhythmic/linear rendition. While the conventional bhakti/sringar cocktail in the first half had all the involvement of inner spark, the charanam mood posed a sudden change in attitude, the impassioned desire transformed to a bold and assertive nayika unafraid of reactions to her feelings, for her love is no secret.

Here one saw spurts of defiant confidence in the dancer's interpretation, more of which would make the abhinaya even stronger.

One liked Murali Parthasarathy's vocal support which opted for melody with clarity of diction, without too much of embroidery in the singing. Violin by Srilakshmi Venkatramanan was of a piece with the rest of the musical team.

The Jayadeva ashtapadi “Tava virahe vanamali” in Mian ki Malhar as scored by M.S. Sukhi visualises Krishna's lovelorn condition as described by the sakhi to Radha — when even the rays of the moon scorch him and he wails piteously for Radha, lamenting his weakness. Abandoning his beautiful abode, he dwells in the deep forest desperately chanting her name.

Persuading Radha to shed her pride and go to Krishna, is however not easy, the sakhi finds. The dance version brought out the three-cornered plot — the viewer, through the sakhi's visualisation and response, seeing the condition of both Krishna and Radha.

Very different from the exalted treatment of the Radha/Krishna sringar was the javali in Saindhavi “Itu sahasamulu…” wherein the still unawakened mugdha nayika urges Subramania to put his desires on hold for a future time when she is more mature and will be the right partner for his ardour.

Lavanya did her best trying to transform her person into an awkward, innocent mugdha, in what is a very tricky lyric to do justice to.

Odissi of old vibes

It was like a leap back to the early '60s watching Vani Madhav present an Odissi recital at the IIC auditorium. The Kalyan pallavi in the musical composition captures the old vibes of what Odissi used to be with its typical gamakas, before the heavy induction of Hindustani influences.

The item starts with the dhyana shloka and Kalyan is conceived as a forceful raga, followed by the arohana and avarohana. And the dance movements too, with plenty of sideway movements of the udvahita torso, lacked, surprisingly, a clear-cut chauka or even a brahmari executed in an unchanged half seated posture, which were the forte of the late Guru Deba Prasad Das school of Odissi — Vani being the disciple of the guru's students Gajendra Panda and Sudhakar Sahu.

The starting invocation to the five elements was also different from present-day Odissi. “Malli Mala Shyamaku Dibi” wherein the nayika imagines herself lovingly administering to the needs of Krishna like wiping his sweat, smearing sandal paste on him and offering him a paan before garlanding him with the jasmine flowers, in its underplayed abhinaya was quietly communicative, more direct in translating of words into gesture in dance, with very few sancharis or elaborations, which was the hallmark of Deba Prasad Das' approach. Prashant Behera, a much improved singer, provided tuneful vocal support with Prafulla Mangaraj providing sensitive mardal accompaniment. On violin and flute were Balram Chand and Sujeet Gupta.

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