‘Monsoon Dance Music Art Fest 2013’ in Thrissur showcased an interesting mélange of dance and music performances.

Eclectic presentations made the six-day ‘Monsoon Dance Music Art Fest 2013’ in Thrissur a festival with a difference.

In a programme that embraced music, movements, mimicry, theatre, poetry and acrobatics, P.K. Sunilkumar, an accomplished percussionist, created a phantasmagoria by playing instruments that belonged to different genres of music drawn from all across the world. The highly reverberating, deep-bass beats on the main drum matched the unprecedented fury of the monsoon outside the Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Theatre. That was ‘Keli’, the traditional announcement of the festival.

In the meantime, the art gallery of the Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi next door witnessed an exhibition of paintings mainly on dances.

Music lovers had a great day when M. Narmadha, accompanied by Fazal Qureshi on the tabla, enthralled them with a sterling performance of Hindustani violin recital – the only music programme in the festival. Dr. Narmadha opened with raga Puriya, bringing out all its shades through Bada khayal in Ek taal (vilambit) and the Chota khayal in Teen Taal (drut).

Emotive was the delineation of the thumri‘Kaun gali gayo shaam’ in Kamaj. Alaap and Jod in raga Durga was followed by Masit-khani Gat in seven-beat Rupak taal. Together with Fazal’s accompaniment, the number elicited generous applause from the audience. It was delightful to listen to Swati’s bhajan ‘Ramachandra Prabho’ in Sindhubhairavi. She wound up with a taraana in the same raga, which she presented as a tribute to her late father and Guru M.S. Gopalakrishnan.

Swetha Nair exhibited unmatched grace while presenting Mohiniyattam on the third day. Neatly executed adavus and graceful movements were the high points right from cholkettu with which she opened. The Simhedramadhyamam varnam choreographed by Kalamandalam Leelamma revealed her histrionic aptitude as well. But her abhinaya blossomed in full in the essaying of ‘Sree Krishna Chintamrutham’, composed by Kalamandalam Manoj and choreographed by the dancer herself. It depicted mainly the introspection of a crestfallen Krishna after the Mahabharatha war. He laments on the losses that were aplenty while the achievements were nil. Finally Radha makes her appearance and reminds him that only love is eternal and that is Radha. Memorable moments were many when her abhinaya soared to the satwika level. Absence of tillana, for want of time, seemed a glaring lacuna.

A Bharatanatyam recital by the Shafeekudeen-Shabana duo had a vibrant start with a short Mallari in Gambhira Natta and Roopakam. The structural beauty of the varnam in Atana and Adi, choreographed by the maestro Dhananjayan, Shafeek’s guru, was commendable. The leitmotif was supplication by a bhaktha for Krishna’s blessings. While the nritta was noteworthy for the intricate jatis executed individually and jointly, the playful antics of child Krishna gave enough scope for nritya. ‘Gajendra moksham’ appeared in sanchari. One felt Shabana’s khanditha nayika in ‘Yahee Madhava, Yahee Kesava’, (Ashtapadi 16) could have been more incensed. The Kuntalavarali tillana of Balamuralikrishna was a fitting finale to the one-hour recital.

An Odissi recital by Shashwati Garai Ghosh was highly innovative but still anchored on the traditional repertoire of the dance form, the credit for which went to Sharmila Biswas, her Guru. The Mangalacharan invoking Devi Sambaleswari was noteworthy for the music based on the traditional Malesri rendition at the Sambaleswari temple. Interestingly, it was rich in rustic elements too. The nritta owed much to ritualistic components unique to the temple. The way in which she commenced the feat – sitting on the floor lost in meditation with a tray of flowers and a pot in front – created an ambience of devotion. ‘Sthayee Nato’ was a demonstration of the technical intricacies of the dance form, including the bhangas and sculpturesque postures. The music of this number was in the traditional Gotipua ‘thai nato’ style.

Various anecdotes related to the birth of Krishna were presented in ‘Krishna’s Janma’. Her abhinaya apart, it was the highly expressive chanting to which the number was performed that captured the imagination of the audience. The chanting by a group of narrators of the Bhagavata in Odisha kept the audience mesmerised for hours on end. It was interesting to see how the first part of the movements in this was totally devoid of rhythm. Shashwati wound up with a Meera bhajan ‘Hari tuma haro jana ke peer’ that depicted varied anecdotes. However, Moksha, the last in the traditional repertoire, was conspicuous by its absence.

The festival concluded with a scintillating recital of Kathak by Parwati Dutta. One could enjoy the unique aesthetics and technical virtuosity peculiar to the dance form right from the first number – Surya Namaskaram. The ingenuity of Parwati’s choreography manifested in ‘Varhsa Ritu’, excerpted from Kalidasa’s ‘Ritusamhara’. Fabulous was the way in which the varied facets of the rain unfolded through feats of Gat, Primalu, Paran and so on. It was indeed quintessential of the efficacy of the rhythm in communicating ideas. Among the Parans, the highly traditional one that is special to Pakawaj demonstrated awe-inspiring footwork in tremendous speed. For abhinaya she chose the role of a Mugdha nayika narrated through the lines ‘Pradham milap kunj geh mem’ in the Vraja language, a dialect in Madhura. ‘Ise Ram hai Dukh Haran’, a devotional piece choreographed by Bindadin Maharaj, grandfather of Biriju Maharaj, embraced anecdotes such as Draupadi Vastraharan and Govardhan Lila, and was rendered in raga Jhinjoti.

The annual festival this year was jointly organised by Navaneetham Cultural Trust.