How does dance communicate when the songs are shorn of language or situations? Ananda Shankar Jayant and her group of dedicated students showed infinite possibilities of the same with tautly synchronised moves and lucid delineation.
Her school Shankarananda Kalakshetra in Hyderabad trains students in imbibing the traditional art of Bharatanatyam in the midst of modern trends. ‘Nava Rasa – Expressions of Life’ was a production which drew upon the syntax of strong body actions to exhibit The Nine moods in a fresh context.
The dynamic presentation that lasted for just over 45 minutes conveyed not just the principal emotions but also the finer shades of each idea. In the process, the dance routine threw light on the numerous techniques of abhinaya. The body became an instrument while the group explored how each part transformed for every emotion. The jaw, the neck, the eyebrow and the foot found equal importance in this endeavour. There was not a single loose thread in the presentation which was a reflection of painstaking effort and astute direction.
Each segment with its attendant emotions would begin with the verse relevant to the rasa from The Natya Sastra followed with the music by Prema Ramamurthy composed exclusively of swaras.
The presentation opened with the strong emotion of Raudra or anger. Ferocious facial expressions, vigorous bends, the frontal lashing out of the legs of the Kathakali style and torso swings aligned with raga Atana to suggest the furious events of the battle of Ramayana. The draping of a red
scarf onto an iron frame underscored the vivid rasa.
Body movements evoking images of oppression, vague nameless fears, bondage, etc. coupled with furtive eye movements to represent the terrified soul. The black scarf mirrored the starkness of this mood. Adbhuta or wonder was shown in a positive light with tints of happiness and a yellow scarf became another decoration for the frame. It was intriguing to see disgust mirrored by so many people on stage even as children in the audience at once picked up the ‘yuk’ aspect! A bluish violet scarf served to attenuate the dancing for this part.
Veera or bravery was a striking portrayal to the rthymical background of Khanda nadai or beats of five. The shikara hasta (popularly perceived as the ‘thumbs up’) and the matching ‘thath thee tam’ adavus were used in addition to the energetic walk plus the orange coloured scarf to differentiate this from the similar emotion of Raudra. Karuna rasa was shown as compassion in tandem with the overtones of sadness even as a grey scarf turned up on the frame this time.
Sollukattu with ‘ha ha’ included in them perked up the atmosphere for hasya. The comic movements also featured puppets, jigs and mock exasperation alongside the raga Katanakutuhalam. Sringara or love was followed by the last rasa Shantam. A short thanam rendering with the ‘ananta’ echoing in them was offered with graceful moves evolved from Yoga postures and concluded on a propitious note invoking peace.