focus The Nartaka fest threw up absorbing performances. RUPA SRIKANTH

P avitra Bhat is a bright, young dancer from Mumbai. This disciple of Guru Deepak Mazumdar and a commerce graduate, has taken to dance full time. His confidence, carriage and sincerity along with a natural sense of time and an expressive face should take him places. Pavitra performed recently at the Nartaka Dance Festival 2010.

Sometimes, it is style that inadvertently holds one back. The nritta in this case would have benefitted with some change. The standing nattu, thai ha thai hi and the thadinginathom adavus had energy and covered the stage space but as a collective whole, they did not impart a powerful effect because there were no grounded adavus, which are crucial. The music on the other hand had some interesting touches like the tanams during the storytelling episodes of Siva Navarasa (ragamalika, Adi, Papanasam Sivan). The chanting of ‘Namo Astu Bhagavathe' sloka during Markhandeya's Siva pooja was a short but effective interlude. The musicians Randhini (vocal), Ramesh (flute) and Muruganandan (violin) gave off their best. Ram Shankar Babu on the mridangam anchored the timekeeping with accurate beats, while Deepak (nattuvangam) provided able guidance.

The opening piece juxtaposed a khanda chapu Alarippu (Guru Kadirvelu Pillai's composition) with eka tala khanda nadai piece by Oothukadu Venkatasubbier (‘Sri Vignarajam Bhaje,' Gambhira Nattai) with alternating stanzas taken in perfect harmony by dancer and musicians.

The tone of the recital was male-dominated so the navarasas from Siva's point of view were followed by Rama's reaction when he first sees Sita in Mithila (‘Yaaro Ivar Yaaro,' Bhairavi, Adi, Arunachalakavi). Surdas' ‘Hey Govinda' (Bagesri, Rupaka) and thillana (Behag, misra chapu, Thanjavur Quartet) completed the list.

Abstract work

. A young threesome from the Dewandru Dance Company, Indonesia, presented ‘Shadowing The Body' choreographed by founder-director and one of the dancers, Rianto. The other dancers were Wijanariko and Wahyu Bayer Prastlyan. The abstract work, inspired by the traditional Javanese shadow puppets, explores the possibilities of movements when the human body is treated like two-dimensional puppets. Also the intensity of the choreography seeks to reflect that of the Japanese Butoh, which is known to be highly internalised and individualistic.

The hour-long show was minimalistic at many levels: the costumes were; the soundscape was varied with segments of the gong-based gamelan music, clanging cymbals, trumpet-like repetitive segments and forceful percussion sections, some to the accompaniment of a low-toned drone, much like the didgeridoo. The lighting (Sivarajah Natarajan) added a dramatic component to the performance, yet stayed subtle. Only the incredibly flexible bodies dominated the starkness. The dancers had facial masks and ‘big hair' just like the leather puppets do. And as they moved they proved as spineless and boneless as the lifeless puppets on a string.

The movements were abstract, but there were some instances that begged labelling. The apes or cave men, the men in hats as the Dutch colonists, the early morning cock crowing scene, man imitating animals, exaggerated human emotions, the warrior segment, the contact improvisation section and the solemn closing ritual, were some of the ‘familiar' ones. Familiar or not, the dancers' body kinetics made an impression.