Kalamandalam Leelamma and Kalamandalam Hymavathy took to the stage to pay homage to their guru Kalamandalam Sathyabhama, who, in turn, did the nattuvankam for the recital.

The Koothambalam at Kalamandalam was packed to capacity on the evening Kalamandalam Leelamma and Kalamandalam Hymavathy performed to the nattuvankam of Kalamandalam Sathyabhama. For former students of the institution, it was a rare opportunity to see their gurus on the stage. For the elders in the crowd, it harked back to Sathyabhama’s kalari in the late 60s in Kalamandalam.

“It was really an enthralling experience for us and it was also a tribute to our guru who had moulded us as dancers more than 40 years ago,” said Leelamma and Hymavathy, after the one-hour recital.

Satyabhama, the chief architect of the Kalamandalam ‘shaili’ of Mohiniyattam, she was on the nattuvankam after a break of two decades. Incidentally, all three gurus are alumnae of Kalamandalam and also headed the dance department.

The repertoire for the dance (except one) included numbers that were choreographed by Sathyabhama many decades ago, when the dance form had just crossed its formative period.

After a short invocation to Ganapathy by Hymavathy, Leelamma opened the performance with Swati Tirunal’s varnam ‘Sooma sayaka’ in Kapi, Roopakam. It was a demonstration of the essence of lasya as the dancer delineated the agony of separation of the heroine as conveyed to the hero through the sakhi. Many of the sequences in the recital, such as the depiction of Cupid’s arrows, the graceful swaying movements and so on had the stamp of the Kalamandalam school of Mohiniyattam.

Hymavathy chose an excerpt from Vallathol’s ‘Sahithyamanjari’. Presented in ragamalika, it narrated the memories of a village girl who was cheated by a young man from the ‘upper’ caste. The ‘virahotkhantitha’ nayika staged by Hymavathy was impressive both in abhinaya and aaharya. Hymavathy recalled that ‘Radhayute kritharthatha’, as it was titled, was choreographed by her guru on the lines of a padam 32 years ago.

Evocative portrayal

Again it was Leelamma’s turn. Annamacharya’s famous composition, ‘Sreeman Narayana’ in Bouli describes Vishnu in all his splendour. The dancer, the devotee, begins by surrendering herself at his feet. She further praises him for his eyes that resemble lotus petals and extols him to be the sun for his consort Kamala. The verse ‘Paramatma paramanu roopa’ (which means that He is manifest even in the tiniest atom) was elaborated with a sanchari depicting Narasimha avataram. Roudra portrayed by Leelamma was evocative. This was the only item choreographed by Leelamma that was presented.

‘Kanakamayamayidum’, the Utsavaprabandham of Swati in Huseni, was presented as a duet. Composed for the ‘Arattu’, the dancers try to identify the deity who is being taken in the procession.

While one of them wonders whether he is Indra who killed Vala, the other says it cannot be since the deity’s sparkling 1,000 eyes cannot be seen. If it is the moon, there is no stain on his face. Similarly, they are sure he is not the sun, Siva or Kubera. Finally they are convinced that it is Lord Vishnu himself riding in state in the golden-lotus vehicle.

The conversational interaction between the dancers was highly impressive in this number.

The performance was staged as part of the annual Nila Festival of Dance and Music organised by Kalamandalam.