‘Saayujya’ was a creative collaboration between dancer Priyadarsini Govind and vocalist T.M. Krishna.
“Saayujya, meaning merging oneself with the Divine, is an exploration, expression of dance through music and music through dance. It is a free spirited, spontaneous, responsive collaboration between dancer and musician - a breath of fresh air to challenge the audience.” The Music Academy had a houseful turnout to witness this collaborative effort.
When two performing teams led by Bharatanatyam dancer Priyadarsini Govind and musician T.M. Krishna are involved, one can expect the best in technical and aesthetic values; one can also expect creativity that’s rooted in tradition and above all, dignity of presentation, with no room for sentimental or gimmicks.
Krishna and Priyadarsini introduced the accompanying artists right at the beginning, instead of a cursory “also performed” manner at the end. H.N. Bhaskar (violin) and Arun Prakash (mridangam) formed the rest of the musical team while K.S. Balakrishnan (nattuvangam) and G. Vijayaraghavan (mridangam) formed the rest of the dance team.
Dressed in a beautiful costume of red, green and orange, Priyadarsini danced with a restrained and astonishingly evocative expressiveness. The simple backdrop of swathes of heavy dark blue drapes suggested infinite space.
The alarippu in mishra nadai, choreographed imaginatively by Aadith Seshadri, brought together all the elements of an alarippu in a novel manner. Priyadarsini’s movements suggested tremulousness here, vigour there - the blossoming of a bud captured in dance. Krishna followed this with ‘Paramatmudu’ in Vagadeeshwari, said to be the last composition of that musical genius of Tiruvaiyaru.
Not a dull moment
Interestingly, the central piece of the concert was the grand Bhairavi swarajati, which, as Krishna said, was a gift of Syama Sastri to the musical world and which Priydarsini admitted was not made for dance. A long composition, into which the essence of Bhairavi is squeezed, with nothing but bhakti, what would it be in dance? When the music and dance came together, there was not a dull moment. The choreography (Srikanth Natarajan and Aadith Seshadri) of the jatis for the swaram portions was restrained, flowing with the music and in keeping with the mood of the composition; the arudhi was particularly elegant and unobtrusive. The choreography for the piece was in the varnam format with the tatti metthus, arudhis, teermanams - the works.
The abhinaya was a display of sheer mastery. Krishna took off on a few rounds of niraval at ‘Syama Krishna Sodari,’ the last charanam, when Priyadarsini simply retreated. During the swara prastaram, the sanchari of ‘Meenakshi Digvijayam’ and her marriage as well as the story of Mahishasuramardini were depicted. Was this dance responding to manodharma? In a typical dance concert, the violin and/or the flute fill in during such sancharis – the only difference here seemed to be the quality of the music.
Following the swarajati came the padam, ‘Paiyyada’ in Nadanamakriya. Krishna paid tribute to the artistry of Brinda and Mukta; he would have done them proud in his rendition. It was remarkable that a musician of the cut of Krishna, as creative as he is, could sing in response to the needs of the dancer. Throughout the performance, he was completely involved in the dance as he was in his music.
The virahot kantita in ‘Paiyyada’ was, on an emotional level, simply a variation of the bhakta in Kamakshi. A padam in a contrasting mood such as ‘Aduvum Solluval’ in Saurashtram which one has heard Krishna render brilliantly, would have given a respite from pining (for god, for lover).
A ragatalamalika (composed by R.K. Sriram Kumar and T.M. Krishna) interspersed with tanam and jatis was novel in its structure. If this was a novel aspect, it was still tinkering with the externals.
The riveting tanams that Krishna and Bhaskar performed to Arun Praksh’s vibrant accompaniment, stood alone with the dancer moving away during those parts, leaving the stage only to the musicians. Priyadarsini performed jatis choreographed around themes of various animals (peacock, elephant, lion) in what she said was in response to the tanam. One did not quite see how this was so. The concert ended with the all time favourite ‘Krishna Nee Begane Baaro.’
Two fine performing teams, an aesthetically fulfilling evening for most part despite unfortunate glitches that punctured the magical separation of the performance space. But, questions remained.
There can be no questioning the hard work that has gone into this production and the complete sincerity of all the artists. But, what was this coming together of such fine performers and artists? Does the effort, commendable as it was, justify appropriation of Saayujya, a concept from a sublime area of human experience? Was it more than a dance recital with very good musical accompaniment and with some unusual items thrown in?
Krishna’s take on the collaboration was unpretentious, if a bit vague: “To bring out what the two art forms share.” They share quite a lot, don’t they? Interaction between dancer and musician happens -- seasoned dancers interact with their musicians and the vice versa, and to a limited extent, even spontaneously.
If there was more to expect in this concert, as we were urged to, one thought, perhaps there would be some dance to manodharma segments of the music. That would indeed be very challenging for dance to have the required impact, there can be no uncertainty about the entire musical support fusing unerringly with the dance. With manodharma, an element of the unpredictable is unavoidable.
So what was the “more” in this concert? The calibre of the artists surely!