Event Smitha Madhav sang Carnatic vocals and danced to classical Bharatanatyam simultaneously. RANEE KUMAR

A ges ago, we were told that a legendary Bharatanatyam dancer, T. Balasaraswati (dancer Aniruddh Knight's grandmother) would sing as she danced which was and is, a feat worth a mention. But, we can also deduce that the classical dance was not nritta-oriented (footwork-based) but more of mime through gesticulation and facial expression.

That form of dance did not gain ground in later generations of artistes except under rare circumstances; for most part dance was supported by a live orchestra, vocalist inclusive. Smitha Madhav, an adept at both Carnatic vocal and Bharatanatyam dance dared to tread this tricky path and has emerged successful. At a recent awards ceremony at Ravindra Bharati, a part of week-long celebrations of the birthday of Dadasaheb Phalke Awardee Akkineni Nageswara Rao, where she was honoured with a gold bracelet ( swarna kankanam ) by Raga Sapta Swaram organisation for her expertise in two demanding fields of performing arts.

On the occasion Smitha gave a twin recital, rendering a song while she danced in the classical format, to a pre-recorded orchestra.

Krishna Nee Begane Baaro showcased the pranks of little Krishna, Yashoda's mock anger, her boundless maternal love and the Lord's reciprocation in his inimitable ways.

Smitha's abhinaya and sancharis served to enhance what her silky voice expressed in lovely, clear tones.

While this was reminiscent of Balamma's piece, the next, dedicated to M.S. Subbulakshmi was a Meera bhajan Mere toh Giridhara Gopala Doosaro NaKoi dwells on Meera's conflict with the Rajput royal family into which she was wedded, especially the incident of the incensed Rana (Meera's husband) who challenges her to a cup of poison to check if her Lord Krishna would come down to save her. Smitha enacted this with great poise and poignancy. Her emulating the peacocks in the royal garden was a beautiful piece of artistry.

The costume - a lehenga-churni- and the hairdo went well with the theme of both the pieces. Since the pieces were based on abhinaya, she wisely decided to round it off with a light nritta from Lalgudi's composition with brisk adavus and graceful but quick-paced moves.

The presentation had a tailpiece on the request of the organisers, where the dancer was not given to lending her voice in live. But she made a tremendous impact with a brief explanation of a Sanskrit verse by Adi Sankara followed by Apayya Dikshitar's Tamil verse. Coming towards the end, these two brief dance pieces turned out to be the best in terms of expressiveness, footwork and lyrical quality. Smitha gave a picturesque description of the story of Lord Shiva's ardent devotee Kannappa whose crude form of worship with an innocent heart. In the Tamil piece, she excelled in depicting with clarity and in fleeting sequence the unison of Shiva and Vishnu ( Maaramanam, Kumaaramanam) with varied hastha mudras and mime depicting the two forces and simultaneously driving home the point that there is but one God with two aspects.

Though it was an arduous effort, for most part the audience could not glean that the dancer was actually singing though it was announced prior to the commencement of the programme. This impression was more due to the pre-recorded instrumental accompaniment.