From the flick of the wrist to the measured jati, the presentation adhered to tradition.
Senior artist Nandini Ramani‘s Bharatanatyam recital for the Indian Fine Arts Society, which crowned her with the Natya Kala Sikhamani title, was accomplished with sangfroid and grace. A prime exponent of the legendary T. Balasaraswati school, who has been nominated for the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for 2012, Nandini’s style eschewed overt embroidery in presentation and stayed true to the core of the art. One could see chaste araimandi, the straight line alignment of the feet and directness in getting to the essentials through the whole recital. Subtleties in thought and their expression were portrayed together with movements which echoed the musicality of the lyrics. In her dress and deportment the artist exuded Spartan simplicity. While there was plenty of evidence of her in-depth artistry, she did not resort to undue flourishes to emphasise the impact. Entries and exits were simple in nature where the dancer walked in discreetly and waited for the cue.
The recital stayed with the traditional pattern and began with Alarippu in Khandam where precision and restrained strength in dance movements were set to the concurrent singing of Tiruppugazh. Following her style, the shoulder movement which is so common place today was absent and instead only the wrist flick could be seen.
Sanskrit verses which extolled the effulgent Karpagambal the goddess at Mylapore as one ‘who strolled amongst the sands of the seashore’ gave rise to lively visuals for the sabdam in raagamalika and misra chaapu.
A piece rarely seen on concert platforms nowadays - the melodic Kalyani varnam was the highlight of the recital with measured jatis and imaginative abhinaya. The Jatis set by masters Ganesan and Kandappa were performed without any distortion and ended with a distinct finish. Nandini’s encomiums of Sarasijakshudu or the lotus-eyed Rajagopala of Mannargudi flowed with the pulse of the raga. For instance, the hero was described as one whose beauty was like that of the radiant Champaka flowers with their unique scent. The ‘hands’ were given not just as blunt statements but moved in unison with the mukha bhava and the body language.
“I know all about your wily ways,” exclaimed the nayika for ‘Telisenura’ by Ghanam Seenaiyya in Saveri and Rupakam. A dialogue pointing out his double standards involving both anger and hurt engaged the narrative. A devotee’s prayer for divine grace and vision were movingly communicated. Gopalakrishna Bharati’s famous ‘Enneramum’ in Devagandhari and Adi effectively combined pathos and music.
A brief Thillana in Mandari, a composition of the Thanjavur Quartet, completed the classic fare this Bharatanatyam presentation offered.