Young dancers honoured the training imparted by gurus through a combination of nritta and abhinaya

Choices for the first evening of Utsav’s two-day “Unbound Beats of India” evoked a reassuring feeling of a strong line of young dancers ready to take on the mantel in classical dance forms. Germany’s Gudrun Mattins, trained by Odissi dancer Sangita Dash, in her Suryashtakam — with Ramahari’s booming voice on tape bearing a strong heralding quality — gave a convincing display of the Sun God, majestically riding his chariot, presiding over the Earth. Her Odissi did not lack the twin aspects of good nritta with a feel for abhinaya.

After years, one got a taste of the Todi varnam “Danike taku janara” with Sandhya Purecha’s disciple Suhani Dhanki giving a sensitive portrayal of the dootika (messenger) pleading the case of the nayika as the ideal mate for the divine nayaka. The tisra and misra gati teermanams with elongated syllables were preserved in the old, minimal fashion in finished movements, with karana poses built into it in Parvati Kumar’s style, also preserved without tinkering. This, along with the dancer’s winsome abhinaya with expressive netraabhinaya, made the pallavi and anupallavi delightfully convincing, the charanam having to be cut due to the allotted time slot.

The Hamsadhwani pallavi, Kelucharan’s masterpiece, had all the grace and élan presented by Sanchita Banerjee, now with Ranjana Gauhar, after years of training under Kelucharan Mohapatra and Sujata. The only word of caution would be with regard to the excessive expression she tends to inject into nritta, though the body’s enjoyment in pure movement is all to the good. Her interpretative skills could be experienced in “Radharani sange nache”.

More senior than the others, Gana Smirnova, a long-time disciple of Jayalakshmi Eshwar, impressed in the Devi Mangalam with the homage to Mahalakshmi, Saraswati and Kali. Against the calm of Saraswati, the musical mood in the tape evoked the opposite fire of Durga in raga Durga. The Swati Tirunal tillana in Bhupalam brought out, through sensitive choreography by Jayalakshmi, the mei adavus and various gaits — which one does not always get in the present day tillana visualisation — which concluded with a passage by Balamurali Krishna.

A student of Jaikishan Maharaj, Namrata Pamnani’s Kathak had all the graces in the Dhrupad “Poojan chali Mahadeva”, the ‘solah sringar’ of ‘ Hamsagamani’, ‘Chandrabadani’ Parvati shown in all grace. The tarana in Marwa was cut short by the ankle bells coming undone — but Pamnani’s handsome apologies for what she deemed was her failure brought out a very sensitive artiste.

Pushpita Mishra’s Odissi the next evening made for a tame start, the dancer’s torso and general bodily deflections far below the Odissi requirement. The broad chauka of Pankajcharan, her guru, was missing, and barring the odd raudra aspects of Devi in some freezes the dancer’s body showed little mobility.

A disciple of Saroja Vaidyanathan, Hiroko Fujiwara from Japan in the Mahishasuramardini homage showed some bodily balance in holding poses, though an expressionless face made the item very dry. She was more at home in the Behag tillana, which concluded with a prayer to Shanmuga.

A student of Natya Tarangini, Shloka Vaidyalingam’s Kuchipudi in the Dasavataram had a bristling sense of power in portraying the various Vishnu manifestations, concluding with a contrasting calm in the verse “paritranaya sadhoonaam…” She, however, needs to concentrate on the exactitude of her foot contact rhythm, which was fractionally earlier than the tempo set in the music.

Sanjib Bhattacharya must get over his tendency of looking agape while performing Manipuri. It detracts from visual aesthetics. His sense of rhythm is good. If he could impart more light-footed grace into his elevations and jumps, and greater internalisation, this disciple of the late Bipin Singh would make more of an impact.

Very disappointing, Jyoti Shrivastava’s Keerwani pallavi rendered to taped music with Ramhari’s singing, in its dizzy pace, showed unfinished chauka and hurried movements. Not the dancer one knows! Her abhinaya had all the finish and grace.

Shagun and Sudhaaya

With her sound training in Seraikela Chhau, Shagun Butani in her Odissi recital at the India International Centre (IIC), as homage to the late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, showed good balance in her body, though with all her technical perfection her Odissi requires more of a sense of flow. With Banamali Maharana for mardal support, young Rupak Parida as vocalist and Rameshchandra’s melodious violin accompaniment, her musical support was excellent. The adherence to the orthodox repertoire revealed that these items are ageless in their shelf life. Kelucharan Mohapatra’s choreography of “Srta-kamala kucha-mandala” in the variety of the seven-beat tala, and the Keerwani pallavi, which seems to spin circles of enchantment through swivelling toe-heel movements and constant elevations and dips, were enjoyed by both dancer and audience. And what a musical interlude with the Odiya song “Shayamaku juharo”! Shagun with her Sudhaaya students Asha and Devalina presented an interesting experiment on the kind of movements one could work out within the chauka-tribhanga central stylistic concerns.

Daughter of a famous father, Radhe Jaggi’s family fame seems to have preceded her, judging by the packed Sai Baba auditorium. This disciple of Nirmala Nagaraj, mentored by Leela Samson, has all the Kalakshetra perfection in technique and lines. One liked the leisurely pace of her Bharatanatyam recital, with no virtuosity flashes, with Vasanti Rao’s vocal support. The Shiva Panchakshara stuti, with all the ability for holding poses in perfect stillness and devotion, has to evolve internally in terms of capturing the grandeur and majesty of this God. The Shankarabharanam varnam “Manavi chekona rada”, flawless in nritta, could have had slightly more complicated teermanams, and the sringar abhinaya needs to mature. Similarly in the padam “Manchidinamu nede” in Anandabhairavi, the courtesan, a saamaanya, in asking the lover to walk in boldly like a king into her abode, requires a more experienced dancer. The Hindolam tillana in movement profile and rhythm was immaculate. Mridangam needed to be less loud so as not to drown the music, and there were too many gaps between items with no person for compering barring the dancer herself.