Agile dancers in the Quarterfest displayed the range of Contemporary choreography, while Bharatanatyam too held its own in current times.

As compared with the days when choreographer/dancer late Narendra Sharma complained about not getting enough dancers trained to work in Contemporary Dance productions, today one sees several very agile dancers, well versed in a variety of Modern Dance vocabularies — East and West. Several of our choreographers work from a base acquired through training in classical forms, like Santosh Nair who combines training in Kathakali under his father Kalamandalam Padmanabhan and later Sadanam Balakrishnan, and Mayurbhanj Chhau under Guru Janme Joy Sai Babu, before going on to Contemporary Dance under Narendra Sharma. His institution Sadhya specialising in Contemporary creations, with Santosh’s curating of “The IHC Quarterfest 2012”, presented the curtain-raiser with “An Ode to the Gurus” with Arjun Kohli, Nanada Kumar and Rishi Sharma providing choreographic inputs jointly under Santosh’s direction. Starting on a meditative, quieter note, energies get charged as dancers increase movement speed to finish on a high note of dynamism. The Mayurbhanj Chhau/Kathakali influences were very obvious in the choreography characterised by very well knit synchronised dancing, and the feeling of a salutation to all the pioneers of Contemporary Dance, particularly Uday Shankar was communicated.

One could hardly find a greater mélange of musical genres than Karl Brothers, Palghat Mani Iyer, Jean-Phillippe Rykiel and Dancing Tribe as in “Fragments” created by Tripura Kashyap for Bhoomika, with her Kalakshetra, Chandralekha Company and Modern Dance background combining with work in dance movement therapy in the U.S. The mix of contemporary dance and classical dance gestures and postures and the dance images of women and monks evoked contradictory vibes — the collage of quickly moving scenes suggestive of women forging ahead being held back by highly structured orthodoxy.

Vijay Rawat’s “Chair”, a very obvious theme of fighting for positions which is so much a part of the political, corporate and official scenario, had dancers struggling to position themselves on a chair, which was a constant bone of contention being pulled out from under one, or spirited away even before one got to the point of sitting on it. The very overt struggle underlined the theme with no subtleties — the participating youngsters full of springing agility.

It was interesting seeing Shailaja Nalwade’s work “Sound”, for, with her very strong Kathak base, she is going on to works which are contemporary but still based on the Kathak movement vocabulary. With the sound of heavy rhythm of pakhawaj bols and sound from instruments, from claps, patting feet, the body whizzing through chakkars (and they were incredibly fast), alongside which one also saw weight balancing weight as done in Modern Dance, and it was an interesting mix.

Ajay Kumar Bhatt’s Tapasya presenting “Conflict” saw four very strong male dancers. The only distracting factor was the unbuttoned shirts which kept flapping and interfering with movement profile.

Shohini Dutta of Dance Worx creates productions with the mixed flavours of East and West. Dancer reclined on a pillow sliding on to the stage from the wings in “Songs of life”, projected one of the many activities like loving, sleeping, reaching out for something one aspires for, which demand man’s time — time which is always ticking away.

Rhythm and its sounds created in different ways manifest in nature and in man. Bhavani Misra’s “Rhydhunya” presented by Urshila Dance Company, exploring inner and outer rhythms, had movement done to drums, and to silence — the feet doing a “takita takita dhin” and slowly merging into another rhythmic design in the choreography.

The significant aspect of the evening providing on the whole neat, if not exceptional, work was the fact that each choreographer had a different approach and no two productions were the same, proving that young dancers are beginning to think in terms of a very personal movement expression.

Brave effort

One of the rising young Bharatanatyam dancers, the Bangalore-based Navia Natarajan, performing at Azad Bhawan under the Horizon Series, started her recital with the Subbaraya Sastry Reetigowla kirtanam “Janani Ninuvina”. Even while beeja mantras were knit into the recorded music, with fast movements with jumps and leg stretches, the homage to Mahishasuramardini created little impact because of the wordy lyric which meant little for a largely North Indian audience. Starting with a brisk pure dance item like pushpanjali would have communicated far better with the audience to make them concentrate on the rest of the programme. The Kamas varnam “Saami nee Rammanave”, already a long item, was needlessly elaborated with orchestral padding after each musical statement, the plea to the sakhi by the nayika to fetch her Lord Brihadeeswara, no ordinary being, becoming too long-winding, making audience attention wander. And the additional sancharis did not add to the totality of what the dancer communicated while miming to the words. Navia’s clean lines, in the teermanam passages, lost out in the too fast creations with too many rhythmic sounds recited in the nattuvangam, which could not be reflected in the footwork. It is better to depend on leaner jatis composed in the dance vocabulary, which suit movement better, the pace allowing finished dance lines, retained in mind as strong images by the viewer, than the packed teermanams composed by mridangam specialists. It is just that a fine dancer like Navia needs better guidance in programme planning.

The interpretative dance to the Amaru verses, while a brave try, became a little discursive in the nayika’s reflections — the dominant mood of indifference of the husband, contrasted with the passionate love once shared with her before marriage (a common theme in Amaru). The dancer needs to work on the organisation of the item more, to highlight its central motif.