Dance Harikrishnan, Srividya Natarajan and Nalin Bisnath re-shaped the period pieces to suit modern performing dynamics. Vidya Saranyan

‘F allen Rain: Dance Inspired by the Courtesan Repertoire' by the Canada-based Dance Company featuring Harikrishnan and Srividya Natarajan could be compared to a special edition of an old classic, with some chapters adapted to suit the preferences of contemporary audiences.

The presentation was derived from compositions of gurus and the devadasi repertoire, and conveyed the high points of an old world - as would be perceived by the typical rasika. Both dancers have had the good fortune to learn from the late Guru Kittappa Pillai and have subsequently spread their wings into new directions such as choreography, technique and global presentations.

Nalin Bisnath, a Toronto-based dancer, also staged a solo number that was an extract from ‘Sarabhendra Bhupala Kuravanji.'

As expected, the dancers drew on their experiences and skills in various disciplines to re-fashion period works to suit modern performing dynamics.

Old photographs showed what devadasis looked like. They told a tale of bejewelled figures resplendent in zari and silk, which would attract admirers without fail.

Backed by the efforts of scholar Dr B. M. Sundaram and Davesh Soneji, this ambience of opulence was recreated by Rex creative design consultant. Coordinated colours - even for the orchestra, elaborate flower garlands onstage and surrealistic flashy costume and jewels for Srividya Natarajan completed this retro effect. Harikrishnan's uncomplicated dhoti costume provided the foil for this sumptuousness.

Recurrent beat

Another motif that drew attention to the magnetism of the past was the sarvalaghu or the recurrent beat of ‘one two' that tied up with the evening's racy performance. Of special interest were the intricate hand gestures/usages (in the devadasi tradition), which underlined the idea of the poet and the dancer. Right from the first lyric which featured elaborate hastas to the last one, these were the dominant features of the recital.

The upbeat nattuvangam by two artists L. Subhasri Ravi and Davesh Soneji accompanied the high voltage moves of the duo faithfully, but tipped the balance to a cascading speed, something conspicuous in the second half of the varnam. Admittedly the skill of the dancers meant that the adavus and lines remained marvellously intact and the energy remained undimmed... so if sheer enjoyment was the only goal, then the dancers were definitely successful.

Despite this tweaking of pace in the nritta, the solo numbers after the varnam accentuated mood and drama. Nalin Bisnath, Harikrishnan and Srividya took turns in displaying nuances of sringara bhava.

The lavani resourced by Dr. Sundaram had elaborate descriptions of a beautiful lady and was an appeal by the hero to accept his affections. Performed by Harikrishnan the lavani belonged to the Marathi song genre of the 19 {+t} {+h} century. Srividya's javali in Khamas eloquently brought out the travails of a woman deceived by Krishna, and the kuravanji by Nalin Bisnath was a steady depiction of a particularly unique musical form. Thillana concluded this journey into the past.