KATHAK Clever choreography, rich music and synchronised dancing… all these made Nirupama and Rajendra's performance stand out. RUPA SRIKANTH

‘O jas,' a Kathak presentation by Nirupama and Rajendra and the Abhinava Dance Company, Bengaluru, was hosted by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha as part of the Yagnaraman July Fest 2010.

The two-hour show presented Kathak not in the conventional way, but as well-finished and slick choreography. ‘Slick' means glossy, superficial, polished and professional. And ‘Ojas' was all of this. What set this eclectic mix of the traditional and the contemporary aside was the clever choreography (Nirupama and Rajendra), the stunning visuals (costumes and lighting- Rajendra and Srinivas) and the rich musical score (Praveen D. Rao and Shivu). Also one felt every piece had been explored thoroughly both choreographically and musically.

With informal and almost chatty introductions, Nirupama set the stage for the pieces. While it was interesting to see how Nirupama brought in a spiritual angle almost every time, one did not endorse some of the ideas. One appreciated the rationale in the Raslila when Krishna disappears to teach the gopis a lesson and reappears when they surrender their ego and in the Meera bajan, ‘Aali re mere naina' (tuned by Shivu as a tumri in Khamaj, teentaal) when Krishna's unseen presence around the deeply devoted Meera is palpable, but one was not taken in by the Veda Mantras (‘Asatoma sadgamaya,' etc) and Bhagavad Gita sloka presentations. The latter two were visually attractive, no doubt, but abhinaya to such slokas seems pointless because the meanings are too deep. Only the gloss came through.

Perfect timing

The ‘abhinay' pieces were not intense but the sensitive role-play and the perfect timing between the duo, both in ‘Sringara Rama' and ‘Meera Madhuri' brought a delicacy to the portrayals. The former described a romantic Rama-Sita encounter in a garden from Tulasidas' Sri Ramcharitamanasa while the latter displayed the tenderness of Krishna's caring for Meera.

The best that evening were the professional pure dance sequences. ‘Rang' was performed by the duo with tukras and chakkar-tukras alternating with the Spanish Flamenco-inspired moves. The music (Praveen Rao) reflected this East-West mix with Western melody and bols alternating with Western percussion and the sitar, tabla and other Indian instruments. The effect was electrifying.

‘Ta-dha' was undoubtedly the show stopper with excellent choreography by the Kathak guru, Kumudhini Lakhia, and inspired world music by Praveen Rao. The piece resounded with fast footwork, tihais and the Kathak spins, all ending on the sam with a resounding ‘ta dha!' The accompanying music from the sarod, sitar, sarangi, a 12-string acoustic guitar, and others and plucking by the sarod and sitar with Afro percussion, formed a heady mix.

The finale, ‘Kadam Kadam' dedicated to R.Yagnaraman, was an ensemble piece where the basic rhythmic strength of Kathak was exhibited. The band of young dancers had so much poise and grace, they were like young stars. The group synchronised perfectly to close on a high. And that's when the standing ovation happened!