Aditi Mangaldas’ students steal the thunder, but Kelubabu’s legacy is going strong.
After witnessing so much of rhythmic wizardry alongside an emaciated interpretative side to the dance, it was heart warming to watch sensitive Kathak by young Gauri Diwakar and Rashmi Uppal at the India International Centre, in what was surprisingly, the maiden solo Delhi performance for such gifted dancers. Gauri, groomed under Pandit Birju Maharaj and Jayakishan Maharaj after initial training under Sumita Chaudhary, and Rashmi, trained by Bharati Gupta and now under the stewardship of Aditi Mangaldas, are part of the Drishtikon Dance Foundation’s Dance Repertory under Aditi Mangaldas.
Rashmi’s conceptualisation of the opening ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ hymn, in a minimalist language blending focused thaat freezes, bols with heavy mnemonic sounds like “Dha”, fleeting tukras of punch punctuated by chanting of “Nagendra Haaraaya”, “Trayambaka Jatamaham” and Ravana’s Shiva stotram, managed to evoke the combined resonance of devotion and veera rasa, portraying Shiva presiding over the cosmic activities of creation, preservation and destruction. The razzle-dazzle of rhythm aesthetically put together was in the nine-matra Vasant tala, Gauri’s striking stage presence, grace-laden torso swivels and faultless feel for laya subtleties making for a potent combination.
Rashmi later joined the entire sizzling nritta effort — the tihais with handclaps and footwork articulating different fractional intervals of the lehra in pin-pointed precision. Gauri’s “Kaisi Nikasi Chandni” caught the feel of the waxing and waning moon through subtleties of abstract dance. The abhinaya duet in “Shyam Bhayi Ghanashyam Nahin Aye” made for a perfect ending, the dancers complementing each other while allowing individual space for manodharma, making for poignant images of the nayika in waiting.
Ambika Prasad (tabla), Mahaveer Gangani (pakhawaj) and vocal (Samiullah Khan) provided music. Samiullah with his Kirana gharana background needed more voice modulation.
At Stein auditorium was Drishtikon’s major production (undertaken once every two years) titled Samvet — with every aspect of the group effort, from libretto and lighting to music and dance, an in-house contribution. True to form, the evening excelled in presentation virtues, with even musicians turned out in smart black and white outfits matching exquisitely designed dancer costumes created by Aditi Mangaldas. Samvet was built round the theme of the perfect confluence of the five elements comprising the whole — the equilibrium invoking eternal bliss in heart and mind. The creative effort translates inanimate elements into danced emotions and movement patterns.
The starting scene invoking Earth with the Prithvi Sukta from the Atharva Veda, danced by Anindita and Dheerendra, made for a somewhat inconsequential beginning, its impact minimal. The real flow began with the water sequence fashioned round a bandish by Rachana Yadav and rendered by Gauri and Rashmi. Dovetailed into the scene was a pure dance sequence in Vasant tala and a scintillating 17-matra Shikhar tala presentation by Gauri, taught by Jaikishan Maharaj. Full of floating grace as if wafted by the breezes, were the white-clad dancers in the wind sequence based on a Faiz Ahmed Faiz ghazal. The only drawback was the assertively loud Darbari sung by Samiullah, which, given more delicate handling, would have better evoked the intangible quality. With dancers clad in mixed tones of brown, orange and yellow, the fire sequence sizzled, what with a percussion jugalbandi start, Agni mantra Veda Sadhanam compiled by Shuddhananda Bharti climaxing in a bristling tarana in Yaman.
The group held attention even while not all dancers matched the expertise of Gauri and Rashmi. With “neither middle, source nor end” was the concluding space mystique, based on the Hindi translation of Ashutosh Dikshit’s poem. Needing more work, it ended abruptly. Lighting by Narayan Singh Chauhan was excellent. Flowing from one scene to the next, with the gaps for costume changes tided over without stopgap announcements, would be ideal.
An HCL concert evening at Stein saw one of the slicker presentations of Odissi by the late Kelucharan Mohapatra’s students Ipsita and Meena Sahu (who also learned under Sanjukta Panigrahi), the duet combining with good understanding in the Vishnu Vandana set to Gurjari Todi. Meena’s grace was offset by Ipsita’s less fluid tone. “Kede Chhanda Janilo” saw Ipsita at her interpretative best. Strongly associated with Kelubabu, the Saveri pallavi was ably rendered by students of Ipsita, Gauri and Snigdha. Kalicharan Behera’s “Lajare sorigoli” in Meena’s overflowing coquetry and shyness missed the in-between tones of a nayika’s intimate exchange with the sakhi. “Nachanti Range” by Ipsita and Meena, with the excellent Panchanan Bhuyan as Krishna, was evocative. Excellently coordinated musical support was a feature of the evening.