There were plenty of challenges for the dancers at the Dasyam Swati Nrithyolsavam. They had to present only Maharaja Swati Tirunal compositions.

Up and coming dancers were showcased at the Dasyam Swati Nrithyolsavam presented by the Dharma Parimpalana Sabha, Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple, Chennai, and Mohiniyattom dancer Gopika Varma.

The dancers had to present only Maharaja Swati Tirunal compositions, so there would have been the additional challenge of putting together a new repertoire for most of them.

Hari Padman and Divya

Having taken part in many Kalakshetra productions, there is an air of authority about dancer-faculty member Hari Padman. He is like a master craftsman who understands drama in rhythm and human emotions.

Sharp movements and razor-sharp timing is his trademark style, and the movement choreography reflected this urgency. However, his wife and dancing partner, Divya, has quite the opposite style. She is a graceful dancer with a softer and a more rounded technique. She coped well, but one wondered whether the brisk pace and the superfast finishes suited her.

The choreography could have taken advantage of a twosome, barring the mirroring steps in the Pantuvarali opening (‘Maatanga Thanayaayai’), there was little else.

The couple complimented each other well in the story-telling sancharis in the melodious ‘Gopaalaka Paahimaam’ (Revagupti, triputa).

Yashoda (Divya) having Viswaroopa darshan was delineated with care, but her anger against the mischievous Krishna was much too intense. The subsequent Krishna-Kuchela meeting, however, was handled sensitively, and was easily the high point of the recital.

Kuchela (Hari Padman) is overwhelmed by Krishna’s grandeur and hospitality, and as he takes leave, he is happy for having met Krishna, yet saddened by the thought of his poor wife and children for whom he cannot seek anything. The poignancy came through brilliantly.

Divya did not go beyond being expressive in the Malayalam padam, ‘Bhaasurangi Baale’ (Saveri) choreographed by Bragha Bessell.

The concluding thillana (Poorvi, Adi) was executed with skill, with eventful arudis and a final photo-finish. One could not shake off the lingering sense of missed opportunities at the end of the recital as regards the music and the dance.

Deepu Nair (vocal) was out of form, and this had a domino effect on otherwise talented accompanists, Sashidhar (flute) and Ananthanarayanan (veena). Barring the Revagupti kriti, the whole effect was laboured.

With an echoing hall and a tense Rakesh K.P. (nattuvanar), it was left to percussionist Anilkumar to carry the pace of the recital.

L. Murugashankari

Backed by a harmonious orchestra, L. Murugashankari was impressive in her performance.

She is a senior disciple of Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala and runs a school, Kalaikoodam Academy of Performing Arts.

Murugashankari is effervescent, confident and innately skilful. She has an excellent sense of rhythm, is agile and expressive, but she needs to tone down the melodrama and refine her expressions. One looks forward to a time when she will mature, from the stage of saying something expressively to the stage of feeling it from within.

Taking advantage of the built-in pneumonic passages in ‘Gopalaka Pahimaam’ (Bowli, triputa), the dancer breezed in for a vibrant opening on Krishna, describing his leelas in brief. The composer’s musicality is often enough to carry the show.

In the ragamalika padam, ‘Pannagendra Shayana’ (Rupaka) that portrays a woman pining for Padmanabha, Swati Tirunal employs many ragas to denote different aspects of her suffering through the night, starting with Sankarabharanam and ending with the early morning raga, Bhoopalam.

The lyrics were interspersed with swara passages that even had built-in speed to provide a good balance of mood and rhythm.

The portrayal of Kuchela in the Kuchelopakhyanam excerpt, ‘Smarathinu Maam Sadayam’ (Behag) was Murugashankari’s triumph that evening.

Kuchela recalls their boyhood adventures in Rishi Sandipani’s ashram with relish, even as he contemplates returning home dejectedly without meeting Krishna.

Just then, Krishna sees him and they embrace in joy.

While the rest was good, that moment needed deeper understanding to flesh out its poignancy.

Parvathi (nattuvangam) guided her ward with involvement, while Guru Bharadwaj (mridangam) was impressive with his dedicated beats as well as his sarva laghu accompaniment. Roshini Ganesh (vocal) was subdued but melodious. Her ragamalika swara passage in the end of ‘Pannagendra...’ sung in reverse order was a trial by fire from which she escaped unscathed. Kalairasan (violin) carried the melody forward with strong and melodious bowing.

R. Vijay Madhavan

R. Vijay Madhavan and students of his dance school, Rechita Nrutyalaya (Aparna, Nithya, Padma, Ranjani, Riha and Rupa), presented a Swati Tirunal margam.

A former student of Chitra Visveswaran, Vijay is also a Bhagavatha Mela artist and a Bharatanatyam teacher. Long association with the arts has given him the confidence and maturity to present himself with authority.

Faithful to Guru Chitra’s style, he has kept intact the Vazhuvoor roots of dramatisation in nritta and abhinaya, while adding that extra lilt and exuberance. His timing is intuitive and his expressions are mature, but he must exert himself; times have changed and technical perfection has become de rigueur.

Commencing with a dhyaana sloka, ‘Shantaa Kaaram,’ Vijay presented a devotional padavarnam on Padmanabha, ‘Jagadisa Srijane’ (Suddha Saveri, Triputa).

The gamaka-filled music (Geetha Kalyanaraman, Ramya Karthik) was at a slow pace, as the lyrics describing Padmanabha unfurled, followed by a glimpse of the ten avataras.

Vijay has this uncanny knack of surprising you every now and then with an unusual idea that underlines his keen understanding.

In the Vamana avatara, for example, where Vishnu as a short brahmin expands his form, Vijay captured the miracle just by widening his eyes! His visual of Padmanabha on Garuda was also unusual.

The steps were uncluttered and executed with easy confidence. The second jathi with only ‘kita thaka tharikita thom’ adavu and the more vibrant charana swaras were also enjoyable.

With the strong rhythm provided by Mayuram J. Shankar (mridangam) who seemed to dance alongside and an efficient disciple- nattuvanar (Soumya Tilak Seshadri), the nritta was always fortified.

Selva Prasad (violin) adequately enhanced the melody.

The group dances by Vijay’s students, ‘Jaya Jaya Padmanabha’ (Sarasangi), ‘Bharathi Mamava’ (Todi) and ‘Kalaiyami Raghuramam’ (Begada) were at best fillers performed diligently and punctuated with well-timed friezes.

The finale (Anandabhairavi thillana, Adi) with the dancers arranged in a plus formation was well coordinated and rehearsed. They can, however, improve their posture and araimandi.