The Music Academy Dance Festival served as a platform to bring to the fore the proficiency of the artists as well as the expertise of their acharyas. Leela Venkataraman

The morning slot for the juniors at the Academy's Dance Festival saw mixed levels of proficiency. The line-up began with the dance recital of Madhavi Chandran, the winner of the Spirit of Youth Festival of the Music Academy. While she was more convincing in her abhinaya, she needed far more finish in her pure dance. Stationed abroad, Anita Sivaraman gifted with a presence for the stage, mixed  Kuchipudi inclinations and Bharatanatyam intentions - neither having  movement nor choreography conviction.

Pavitra Bhat from Mumbai impressed with the clarity of technique. His chiselled lines with an articulated araimandi tailor-made for the khanda alarippu geometry, unfolding in alternate sequences with ‘Sri Vighnarajam Bhaje' kriti in Gambhiranattai was sung as the invocation. The Tenmatam Narasimhachari varnam ‘Rama Ee Vela' in Kharaharapriya saw, rather unusually, guru Deepak Mazumdar conducting with the tattukazhi rather than the cymbals. With chants from the Vishnu Sahasranamam and tanam passage, also woven into the lyric, the interpretative part became purely narrative with Ramayana episodes such as the Shabari incident and Dasavataram manifestations. Also episodically treated with glimpses of Narasimhavatar and Gajendra Moksham  was the Kanakadara lyric in Atana (wrongly printed as Hindolam in the brochure) ‘Baagilannu Teredhu,' built around the message that the Lord comes to the rescue of the devotee who calls out to Him in full faith. With vocalist K. Hariprasad, Satish Krishnamoorthy on the mridangam and Muruganandam on the violin, Pavitra had competent musical accompaniment.

Navia Natarajan , the talented Bangalore-based Bharatanatyam dancer, now under the tutelage of A. Lakshman, after the Pushpanjali in Pantuvarali and verses from Devi Stuti ‘Udyadbhanu Sahasrakoti Sadrsham…..' (musical composition by Hariprasad), presented a neat performance of the Papanasam Sivan varnam in Nattakurinji ‘Swami Naan Undan Adimai,' her own choreography in both nritta and interpretative passages projecting the dancer's feel for rhythm and sahitya. An added fillip lay in Prasanna Kumar's Jatis, visualised in the dance by Navia. Evocative singing by Srikanth provided the foundation for the dancer's interpretation of Purandaradasa's ‘Pogadhiralo Ranga' in Sankarabharanam, very different in mood from the khandita nayika of Jayadeva's ‘Yahi Madhava'  Ashtapadi. Navia's technique was always good and her abhinaya is growing more nuanced.

Aishwarya N. Balasubramanian 's elegant performance, with all the classical verities, was a feather in her teacher Anita Guha's cap. The tana varnam in Kedaragowla ‘Saami Daya Jooda' by Tiruvottiyur Tyagaraja was extremely well handled, the interpretation with gestures never losing sight of the special aspect of only the face of the Lord being visible. And the ‘Ajapa Nadanam' suggestions with the breathing of the Lord symbolising the pulse of cosmic creation, were very subtly brought out as was the charanam line ‘Nee Sathi Dora…'The nritta links with Anita Guha's nattuvangam and Ram Shankar Babu providing percussion support were also competently executed. Aishwarya has a feel for stage spacing and in the Annamacharya composition ‘Emoko Chiguruta' in Tilang (wherein the sakhis are drawn to comments on the beautifully tousled appearance of Alamelu Manga emerging from the bed chamber after a night spent with Venkataramana.) the dancer deftly wove her way into the extreme right of the stage so as to suggest watching Alamelu Manga appearing from the opposite side. Contrary to this image of erotic love was the Padam in Kalyani ‘Etthai Kandu Nee Icchai Kondai Magale' with Parvati's mother chiding the daughter for desiring the idiosyncratic ash-smeared, tiger skin-covered Siva with matted locks and snake as garland. Veena Seshanna's Chenjurutti Tillana in Adi provided the concluding touch.

born into a family with music as a way of life, Arushi Mudgal as the disciple of her aunt Madhavi Mudgal, the Odissi dancer, has had the advantage of being reared in an ambience of music and dance and her felicity for composing both music and dance, makes this youngster an unusually gifted Odissi performer. Set to her grandfather Vinay Chandra Maudgalya's music in Bhoopali the Manglacharan with Ganesh Vandana choreographed by late Kelucharan Mohapatra began Arushi's lasya- redolent Odissi. Arushi's own choreography for the Pallavi-Aahlad composed by her father Madhup Mudgal in Shahana, set to Ektali was proof of the dancer's command over rhythm and movement.

Moving with supreme grace, her lithe figure full of the joy of movement, this became the high point of the recital. Arushi enjoyed performing to the Oriya song ‘Kede Chhanda Janilo' with the gopi exclaiming to a friend over the magnificent feats of this ‘little boy Krishna, the son of Nandaraja' with her sister Sawani Mudgal providing the most sur-filled singing accompaniment.

The melodic support from the wings had Srinibasa Satpathy on the flute, Yar Mohammad on the sitar and Pradipta Maharana on the mardal.

The sringar abhinaya, while involved, had youthful innocence in the Ashtapadi ‘Yamihe Kamiha Sharanam' with Radha bemoaning her fate given Krishna's indifference. Kalidasa's Kumarasambhavam verses set in Ragamalika made the vachikabhinaya narrative convincing with singing by the male and female voices representing Siva and Parvati.