BHARATANATYAM The prolonged teermanams distracted from the centrality. LEELA VENKATARAMAN

I n the current climate of nritta overplay, the focus and sense of proportion sometimes, changes, particularly in a Bharatanatyam varnam. One understands that in the present dance scenario, accommodating sensibilities of cosmopolitan audiences for whom top dancers frequently perform, has led to shifts in emphasis. My observations are more with regard to the approach to the varnam of gifted performer and intelligent choreographer Rama Vaidyanathan in her curtain raiser performance for the Music Academy's dance festival.

The varnam centerpiece with its demanding nritta/abhinaya combine is meant to be a contained, integrated item, its interspersed nritta more a punctuation point than veering away from the central theme. The traditional, aesthetically designed taut teermanams, with a set of rhythmic syllables carried through to the finish in an organic flow, while linking interpretative passages, do not dim the sthayi or dominant motif and mood flow from pallavi to anupallavi to the climax of the charanam.

Rama's rendition of the Thanjavur Quartet Varnam in Khamas “Saami nee rammanave” had to make do with less than usual competent support from singer Vidya Srinivasan, not at her best, her Khamas touches in particular, taking away from the melting melodic virtues of this captivating varnam. And the prolonged teermanams, contributed by K. Sivakumar, with the dancer traversing stage space in diagonals and circles several times, before returning to the lyric, distracted from the centrality, despite Rama's scintillating bodily command over technique and rhythm.

And each time coming home to the lyric after a marathon rhythmic digression meant starting afresh to build up mood. And Rama's interpretation (announced by the dancer) of the nayika entering the sanctum and getting confused between form and formlessness, did not quite get communicated in the abhinaya.

Affinity with theme

The dancer always had a special affinity with the Krishna theme, viewed in earlier moving works on Brindavan, Ras and the Krishna/Radha sringar. This time she selected Swati Tirunal's ‘Mein nahi jaoon Jamuna teer' with little Krishna refusing to tend cows on the Jamuna banks complaining that the Gopis pinch his cheeks, and the same sentiment later applies to the Gopis who avoid the Jamuna bank because it kindles nostalgic memories of joyous hours spent dallying with Krishna, from whom they are now separated.

Flautist G.S. Rajan contributed the score in raga Kapi. The finale came with Shivoham set to Charukesi by Rajan. With K. Sivakumar conducting the musical support, apart from Vidya the vocalist had Arun Kumar on the mridangam and G.S. Rajan on the flute.