It was as much a light-hearted exploration of the eternal theme of love as it was a unique collaborative effort that placed classical music and dance on equal platforms, thus illustrating their common historical origins.
This week Washington’s Kennedy Centre played host to two of the brightest stars in the South Indian music and dance traditions – vocalist T.M. Krishna and Bharatanatyam exponent Priyadarshini Govind – as they came together to perform “Saayujya” or “a merging,” in this case of both the visual and aural aspects of the two art forms.
The result was a refreshing, closer look at what is common between the two, and the multi-dimensional nature of love, whether the unfulfilled love of a young maiden, the unconditional love of a mother for her child or the mystical-symbolic love between Lord Krishna and a gopi, was the vehicle of this study.
Mr Krishna in comments to The Hindu explained why he and his colleagues had devised this new format. Although Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam were part of the same cultural and aesthetic basket they have in certain ways become insulated, he said, adding “In fact singing for Bharatanatyam is looked down upon by many concert musicians... [It] is only understood as something that provides the necessary melody, rhythm and lyrics for Bharatanatyam.”
Thus, along with Ms Govind, Mr Krishna said that he had attempted to create a presentation that retains all the essential elements of a Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music performance within the same presentation. The key to providing artistic spaces within both forms and thus inspiring inspire each artist within presentation was to ensure that “music will be sung for dance, dance will respond to the music, and yet the music and dance will also be independent.”
And it was clear that there was much space to allow for extempore improvisations from both of them. Accompanied by simple yet substantive comments explaining each performance piece Mr Krishna and Ms Govind sometimes even drew peals of laughter and spontaneous applause from the audience, for example for their creative interpretation of a “flirtatious” exchange between Lord Krishna and his lover.
Ultimately the show hearkened back to the times when such music-dance exchanges did take place historically. “But in the era where a great deal of insulation has taken place we hope to create a common space to place both Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam on an equal footing and explore the creative possibilities within,” Mr Krishna pointed out.
If the audience’s standing ovation was anything to go by, it was clear that they were thrilled by this new concept.