“Performing in Chennai is a dream come true for me!” exclaims Veronika Hotowy a.k.a. Jaya Sundari, “I have been preparing for this performance for six months.” Her teacher, Senthil Kumar avers, “This is the first time Veronika is dancing with live musicians, her arangetram and other performances in Austria have been only with recorded music.”

Veronika Hotowy, aged 50 is a tall, willowy dancer who fell in love with Bharatanatyam the first time she watched it in Thiruvananthapuram. She discovered Bharatanatyam in Radha Anjali in Vienna subsequently and started training under her. She has been learning the art form for more than 15 years, the last eight of which have been with Senthil. She has also had short stints under eminent gurus Adyar Lakshmanan and Prof A. Janardhanan of Kalakshetra.

As Veronika walked onstage and bowed down to a make-believe Ganapathy idol just before the Ganapathy Kauthuvam, one was struck by the correctness of her gestures. The thoppukaranams, the Pillaiyar kuttu and the namaskaram were as authentic as a native's prayer ritual. This correctness highlighted much of the dancer's adavus and mudras and so summed up her style of dance as well. She certainly scores a complete ten for her earnestness.

Show of skill

The repertoire that evening was a mix of original-Kalakshetra masterpieces and other choreographies giving enough scope for the dancer's skill to shine through. With her big, expressive eyes, Veronika delivered nritta that was well-timed and abhinaya that was clear enough, thus showing a clear understanding of Hindu mythology and the story-telling technique.

The tana varnam, ‘Roopamu Joochi’ (Todi, Adi, Tiruvarur Muthuswami Nattuvanar) was one such antique piece. The 25-minute composition stood out for its musicality, highlighted by excellent musicians comprising Jyothismathi (vocal), Srinivasan (violin) and Sankaranarayanan (flute). It also stood out for a constant madhyama-kalam pace that clearly was an adaptation to suit the dancer. The pace in the preceding sabdam ('Devi taye', ragamalika, Madurai N.Krishnan) was also unusual -- this time in a slower-than-usual style.

Music again dominated the 'Krishna Nee Begane' (Yamunakalyani) kriti. It was a glorious coming together of well-balanced melody that complemented the tender notes of a loving mother so beautifully. Veronika seemed to come into her own here, showing strains of spontaneous emotion towards the precocious child.

Senthil Kumar (nattuvangam) conducted the recital with authority with the assistance of a sharply precise M.S.Sukhi (mridangam).