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Ode to Kamakshi

Rupa Srikanth
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NATYA Clear thinking and crisp portrayals were the hallmarks of Priya’s dance performance. Rupa Srikanth

Priya Venkatraman.Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
Priya Venkatraman.Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

Priya Venkataraman, a disciple of Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan, Delhi, and dancer-teachers A. Lakshman and Bragha Bessell, Chennai, represents a pretty combination of skill and style. She has the skill sets necessary to get into the big league of successful Bharatanatyam dancers - grace, agility, expressiveness and focus, but for an overriding gentleness. While gentleness is not a bad thing, in this case it tempers the fire of raw talent and keeps the performance at a ‘pleasant’ level. One would urge Priya to move from ‘pleasant’ to ‘powerful.’ This would entail plunging deeper into the modalities of presentation – the nritta, for example, already has the benefit of excellent timing, and can be made to look sharper with more forceful movements and with clearer distinction between standing steps and the adavus in araimandi. Similarly, Priya’s portrayals reflect clear thinking and expression, but one would like her to stay longer in the moment to give time for the rasika to process the emotions at a deeper level.

Challenging interpretation

Dressed in auspicious colours of red and gold, Priya presented a repertoire of unusual pieces for her solo production ‘Devi’, at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha , starting with a khanda-jati Adi talam Kali Kavuthuvam (Thanjavur Quartette). The Thodi swarajati, ‘Raave Himagiri Kumari’ (Adi, Shyama Sastri) was especially challenging as regards interpretation, since it is a purely devotional ode to Kanchi Kamakshi. Priya did well to introduce jati korvais and a sanchari about Parvati-Parameshwara in the pallavi, so the musical treat carried enough meat for the dance enthusiast as well. The subsequent swara passages were a harmonious blend of beautiful musical notes and well-tailored steps. The Kumaarasambhavam extract, written by the sanskrit poet Kalidasa, composed in ragamalika by Sudha Raghuraman, brought out Priya’s best as she portrayed Parvati’s infatuation with Siva and her anguish when Kama’s love darts pierce her heart. Priya finished with a crisp Nalinakanti tillana (Adi, Karaikudi Krishnamurthy) that contained the Devi Stotra, 'Sarva Mangala Maangalye' as the sahitya. The musical ensemble consisting of K. Hariprasad (vocal), A. Lakshman (nattuvangam), Kalaiarasan (violin), Nellai D. Kannan (mridangam) and Sashidhar (flute) were supportive if a bit subdued during the swarajati. Once Hariprasad’s voice opened up during the heavy piece, one knew one was in for some good music.

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