Performances across the city featured tested, trusted and untried talent.
Kuchipudi dancer Shailaja groomed under Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam is a finished dancer, her technique in the guru's patented style, impeccable. Performing at The Habitat Centre's Stein auditorium, the undeniable command over movement and rhythm, in her kind of visualisation has too much saying too little.
The tendency to crowd every moment of each item with rhythm and movement eschews silences and quietude, which enable through contrast, the energetic sequences to register on the viewer's mind. Otherwise, the constant movement becomes visual restlessness, at times even unsettling, without touching an inner chord in the viewer. Items like Swati Tirunal's “Shankara Sri Giri” in Hamsanandi, and the Mahishasuramardini depiction with the “Aigiri Nandini” hymns, would have carried more impact given thinner movement designing.
For an ashtapadi like “Chandana-charchita” wherein Krishna revels with the gopis, Shailaja's abhinaya interpretation made the gopis look like shy innocents having to be coaxed and initiated into love play by Krishna — which is a misunderstanding of the mood portrayed in Jayadeva's song. Shailaja had strong music support, excepting for the otherwise fine vocalist changing the original structure of a composition too much in variations and elaborations.
In an opposite tone was the senior dancer performing at Stein, Padmaja Suresh with her quiet, non-flamboyant style of Bharatanatyam. The Balamurali varnam in Gambhiranattai paying homage to the Goddess as the other half of Shiva and embodiment of Omkara comprising the three sacred syllables “akara, ukara, makara” in its abstract message matched the dancer's inward looking style.
The dance imagery became more easily identifiable in the latter half, portraying nature and her creatures during rains. But what distracted the viewer's sight was the needless hairdo addition, along with the usual Bharatanatyam headgear, of a round bun on top of the head decorated with a plethora of jasmine flowers, prompted by the dancer's need for height. The abhinaya for the “Choodare adinadacee hoyalu sudati seeyu jaadalu” in Sahana portraying women's gossip aimed at the nayika, who defying her marital status and societal norms, sets off boldly for a rendezvous with her beloved, lacked bite.
Among the young talent of the week was Krishan Mohan's disciple Rachna Sinha, featured in an evening of Kathak titled Purva Mahotsava by Abhyas at the Kamani. Rachna's Kathak exhibited finish in profile and immaculate rhythm, excepting for a fleeting lack of balance once, while freezing on the sam. Grace and command with clarity of lines combined with ability for relishing minimalist moments as in thaat, or interpretative passages on Raidas Ji verses. This dancer's script provided the base for the dance drama visualised by Krishna Mohan, Bahar-e-Lucknow, recapturing the days of yore revelling in “Ghazal (Roshan karo har charag ko), Sufiana and Mehfil andaz”. The music by Pandit Birju Maharaj was sung by Jwala Prasad. The interpretative parts lacked the aplomb of the bristling nritta. The finale had Krishna Mohan's dance demonstrating sarpa-gati and khanjar, talwar gats.
At the ICCR auditorium, the annual homage to Odissi guru Srinath Raut by Jyoti Shrivastava's Vaishali Kala Kendra, with Guru Durgacharan Ranbir conducting from the wings, began with a fitting tribute through guru vandana, in which students from Vaishali and Trinayan based in America combined aesthetically. Late Guru Debaprasad's “Thom Thai” inspired by temple sculpture was rendered spiritedly by Rahul, though he needs to correct his tendency to pre-empt the prescribed pace of music, foot contact being a fraction of a second earlier than warranted.
Also, he must shed extra bounce which detracts from lyricism, an aspect palpable in the Kalavati pallavi for which he partnered his teacher Jyoti with fine understanding. The surprise of the evening was the graceful young Shefali Ray presenting “Radha Rani”, the daughter/disciple of Bani Ray living abroad, who also participated in this tribute presenting Saberi Sabhinaya followed by the ashtapadi “Keshi mathanam udaram”. Jyoti's creation “Ganga” revealed a keen eye for group choreography.