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Beyond cultural boundaries


A homage to the late architect of Nava Nritya and Maria Kiran's Bharatanatyam charmed viewers recently.

Maria Kiran in abhinaya PHOTO: SANDEEP SAXENA. TIME FOR TRIBUTE Artistes of Dancers' Guild in a production of `Kon Nutuneri Dak' in New Delhi. PHOTO: RAJEEV BHATT.

Transcending cultural and geographical boundaries poses no problems for Indian born Bharatanatyam dancer Maria Kiran, adopted daughter of Roger and Millena Salwini of Paris Mandapa fame, brought up in France since the age of three. Remix generations have come to stay. Even so Maria's intensely uplifting interpretative dance during her recital at the India International Centre was a revelation for the audience. The sheer ecstasy of her bhakti sringar, with the nayika's love for Krishna taking on a dimension of soulful resonance, seems unusual in one who has lived her life in the West with French parents.

In the Behhag varnam "Vanajaksha," a composition by T.R. Subramaniam offered as the centrepiece of the programme, the dancer's abhinaya infused a new lustre of wonderment even to oft-rendered dance narratives on the Govardhana Giridhari (to the line "Ninne Nammi"), the Gajendra-moksha episode illustrating compassionate Krishna and the later evocatively danced three strides to show Vamanaavatara. All these myths strengthened the main motif of the nayika's love for Krishna whose beauty outshines that of countless Manmathas.

Danced to Ragini Krishnan's nattuvangam clarity with deft mridangam interventions by Chandrasekhar were jatis composed by Sivakumar. Even the nritta movements to the solfa passages (chitteswarams) in the charanam segment had meanings woven into them by choreographer Jamuna Krishnan, Maria's guru (Maria's previous training was under M.K. Saroja and later Yamini Krishnamurthy). The repetitive movement patterns for the jatis, however, could have had more variety.

Perfect and graceful

Very neat, Maria's nritta is not on the same level as the abhinaya. She has an excellent full sitting posture in the `demi plie' (muzhumandi) and her veeshara adavus and leg stretches as well as hand movements are geometrically perfect and graceful.

The araimandi when she holds it is good, though in certain movements calling for the body weight being perfectly centred in an araimandi, she tends to execute movement in an abhanga posture with a slight hip deflection. And Maria's jump is very different from the orthodox Bharatanatyam leap.

In the opening pushpanjali in Arabhi, the fractional intervals of articulated rhythm tended to be less than perfect. The nritta in the varnam and the tillana in Hamsanandi were well done.

Jamuna Krishna's aesthetic conceptualisation of the Meera bhajan "Mai to Giridhar ke Ghar Jaoongi" set to music in Shyam Kalyan by her, with Meera joyously wending her way to meet Krishna in varied pacing of rhythmic gaits and moods, became an ecstatic expression in Maria's dance. Totally contrasting in the stillness of ache at being forsaken was the Meera bhajan "Keno Sang". For once correctly interpreted as Lord Rama's response of wonder and curiosity after his first glimpse of Sita in the palace at Mithila, Arunachala Kavirayar's "Yaaro Ivar Yaaro" was mimed with mature interpretative conviction by Maria.

Homage to Nava Nritya

As a homage to the late Manjusri Chaki Sircar and daugher Ranjabati Sircar who were the architects of Nava Nritya contemporary dance, Impresario India presented their institution Dancers' Guild at the Habitat Centre in a dance drama `Kon Nutuneri Dak', based on Rabindranath Tagore's famous play "Tasher Desh" (Kingdom of Cards), dedicated by Gurudev to the fearless fighter Subhash Chandra Bose. The story is about a prince shipwrecked on an exotic island, succeeding in changing societal attitudes of the people subjected to a robot-like mechanical life through unbending dictums and a rigid society.

Tagore's satire against Brahminical puritanism and orthodoxy in the songs and dialogue is full of hidden meanings.

The late Manjusri's choreography in the stiff wooden movements for the islanders set against the free flowing grace of expansive Chhau-inspired movements of the prince and his friend effectively suggested the difference between obdurate custom-ridden societies and those who are more open-minded to changes. Good taped music, clever headgear and costuming and sets with the card emblems of spade, heart, diamond and club and efficient dancing, particularly from the male dancers Tanmoy Sengupta, Sandip Chakravarty and Ravishankar Roy, with clever management of the cramped Habitat stage made the evening. But for a contemporarily oriented dance troupe, the awareness of body trimness is lacking and most of the female dancers had figures that could do with streamlining.

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