The India Habitat Centre in New Delhi played host to some memorable performances as lesser-known dancers stamped their class.
It is heartening that Habitat Centre has located a deserving senior male dancer like Satyanarayana Raju based in Bangalore, groomed mainly under late guru Narmada. With a strongly articulated araimandi stance and flawless movement lines coupled with unflagging stamina, this dancer also reveals a feel for abhinaya. The only drawback in this well-sprung package was the surprisingly less- than-perfect grasp of rhythm — which once too often in foot contact and tala missed out. With fine musicians like vocalist Srivatsa, Praveen Kumar (nattuvangam), Subodh (mridangam support) and G. Raghuraman (flute), providing an inspirational springboard, the dancer’s imperfect rhythm coordination with the accompanists in the pushpanjali could be attributed to poor sound balancing though the continuing inability to find impeccable timing in the varnam jatis seemed baffling. This Tanjavoor Quartette ashtaragamalika varnam “Saami ninnu kori ra” addressed to Tanjapurivasa Brihadeeshwara, with the declaration of the nayika’s love/devotion in the pallavi and anupallavi, changes to a confident tone in the charanam asserting that in her alone will he find a fitting partner. Too many teermanams choked the latter half of the varnam which with just the solfa passages would be less muddled. Satyanarayana’s abhinaya was at its most involved in the Sindhu Bhairavi “Bhajamana Rama” bhajan wherein the meeting of Rama and boatman Guha and the meeting with Bharata who has to inform the brother of father Dasharatha’s death, were sensitively treated without the interpretation slipping into melodrama. In the Jayadeva ashtapadi in Mukhari, “Priye Charusheele”, the dancer’s interpretation seemed to point more to a clever Krishna trying to assuage Radha’s hurt with over eloquent praise — whereas actually here it is Krishna pouring his heart out in total surrender and declaration of love for Radha.
The T.V. Gopalakrishnan tillana in Ratipatipriya in the juglabandi showed perfect footwork — which perplexed one further on the rhythmic drawbacks.
Heart warming debuts
In the usual mould of Madhavi Mudgal disciples, A. Snehasini, herself from a musical family as daughter of musician Maheswar Rao, in her Odissi debut at the Habitat showed immaculate technique, right from the mangalacharan with the Adi Shankara Jagannathashtaka “Kadachit Kalindi” with description of the Rath Jatra, set to music by Sunanda Patnaik. The pallavi in Bihag, well sung by Mandakini Swain the dancer’s sister, with Jitendra Kumar Swain providing mardala support, and the guru’s cymbals, in the dancer’s grasp over rhythm and movement profile, became a stark pointer to the melodic richness of the late Bhuvaneswar Misra’s composition, coupled with the choreographic imagination of the late Kelucharan Mohapatra where one felt the dance with a bindu as the centre point evolved in concentric circles of ever increasing rhythmic elaboration built round it. n the Kha Champu, Balaram Chand’s violin and Yaar Mohammad’s sitar, one felt, could have been less intrusive so as to allow the sahitya to stand out.
The other out-of-the ordinary debut of the evening was a Kathak recital by Richa Jain, daughter/disciple of Rani and Ravi Jain, one a student of Kundanlal Gangani and the other of Shambhu Maharaj. The combined Jaipur/Lucknow gharana expertise was in full flow in the dancer who after singing in a melodic voice the “Vakratunda Mahakaya” prayer performed her Teen tala nritta with the ease of an experienced campaigner. There were no glances at the wings seeking guidelines or for accommodating pace. From jaati bhed in footwork to a ladi and tatkar, she was in effortless control, confidently changing rhythmic accents and improvising, with Shakeel Ahmed on the tabla providing the right support. The gat nikas on Radha and Krishna set to a musical composition, and the drut laya sequences showed a dancer with enviable training.
The thumri with the “Aise panghatpe naina lade Shyamse” rendered with the singing, also by the dancer, while creditable, needs more experience for variations and performing without becoming breathless. But full marks to the teachers! In the present craze for performance by novices, such polished dancing before being allowed to take the stage augurs well for classical dance.