Dance The Konark Festival featuring group choreography by classical artistes yielded a rich haul of experience. LEELA VENKATARAMAN
The growing multi-disciplinary approach and a personal touch keep the Odisha Government’s annual Konark Festival, from dwindling into a hackneyed, routine event. Ambiance, décor and arrangements are constantly evolving. The one still grappling challenge settling down after the opening day snafus, remains the uneven spread of sound to every part of the large open air auditorium! Along with this the simultaneous Balaram Maharath live painting inspired by the performances, the sand art exhibition on the Chandrabhaga beach luring several foreign participants, the handloom, handicrafts and painting exhibitions, make this a cross- pollination of art forms.
Of the several Odissi presentations, Nrutyagram’s “Samanvaya” left the audience speechless with the Odissi/Kandyan (Sri Lankan) dance interaction, the immaculate performance evoking slow moving poetry in motion at times and the joi de vivre of twinkling speed — covering the entire stage space with just three Odissi and two Kandyan dancers of matching calibre — providing unmatched professionalism.
The other show stealer was Darpana Academy’s “Sampradayam”, led by feisty women’s lib fighter Mallika Sarabhai in an unusual avatar, evoking an uplifting experience, this version totally different from the earlier one at Chennai’s Music Academy which fell flat. Pandanallur Bharatanatyam, simple and direct with no self-indulgent virtuosic flourishes, with minimal gestures and deep inner joy in the typical bhajana paddhati by Jayan Nair and Maheswari, who transported the audience to another world through the devotion and vigour of their music. An enriching experience!
Elegance marked the curtain-raiser Odissi presentation by Madhavi Mudgal with her meticulously trained disciples, depicting images of the flowing Ganga descending from Shiva’s locks, as part of the Mangalacharan Stuti, the music conceived by Madhup Mudgal and the neat group formations melding smoothly into the Trikhandi Pranam conclusion. Singer Manikuntala Bhowmik held the fort with Poornachandra Majhi’s vocal chords unable to negotiate the top notes. In the exquisitely neat pallavi, a composition of Madhup Mudgal, simplicity, synchronicity and arresting group arrangements created riveting visual images. Successfully communicating interpretative dance through group expression was the Kishor Chandranana ‘Ka, Kha’ champu of Kavi Surya Baladev Rath “Khorapatu helu re”. Taunting mesmerised Radha for courting trouble compared with sleeping on a bed of arrows, the sakhis ask, “Where are you, and where is he”. The gopis/Radha (different dancers representing Radha) exchange, had some very sensitively conceived juxtapositions. Not so the Gita Govind rendition where spring, and Krishna’s frolic with gopis lacked the suggestive erotic exchanges, in “Lalita Lavanga-lata” and “Chandana-charchita”. To have an entire Kuchipudi recital by leading performer Raja Reddy and his troupe rendered to largely Hindustani music starting with Bhairavi was strange to say the least . Pandit Ravi Shankar’s Nata Bhairav tarana, an old favourite expressed through Kuchipudi movement was understandable. But “Natawara Taruni”, Oothukadu Venkatasubbaiyar’s composition and tarangam in Mohanam sounded unrecognisable. And with violinist and flautist from Odisha, whatever happened to Kuchipudi music?
Homage to Ganapati seated on the holy rice spread on the topmost of platforms on the tree in the milky ocean, (symbolising Sopanam or seven steps leading to the sanctum,) began the Mohiniattam recital of the group led by Bharati Shivaji. Mukhachalam taking from the talas of pancha vadyam was redolent with heady, slow swaying grace of Mohiniattam. The ‘aneka nari’ Gita Govind sequence of Krishna with the gopis and “Haririha mugdha-vadhoonikare” evoked the feel of erotic love play through lasya with conviction — two dancers with heads swaying in opposite directions in close contact, with the hasta symbolism of two birds uniting to the phrase “Pinapayodhara..” subtly communicative. Meera Das shows great promise as a young choreographer. The “Hiranmayagarbha” sukta from the Rig Veda as mentioned (also found in Isha Upanishad as homage to Surya “Hiranmayena paatrene”’) adapted in Jagannath Das’ Odiya Mahabharata, made a most suitable start with the Sun temple in the backdrop. The
Tinkering with items composed by veteran gurus is best avoided. In the presentation of Sankalpa by Kasturi Pattanaik “Thei Ghara Nata” was the pick of the items rendered. The Patdeep pallavi in various jaatis portraying gaits of animals, thematically was uninspiring. As for “Sthithapragnya” the dance drama, the end with Kama, Krodha, Mada, and all other vices trying to disturb inner stillness of the meditating rishi missed the point. A sthitapragnya does not destroy wrongdoing as much as rise above it. The redeeming part was the sur faithful melodious singing of Yashwasin Nayak and Vinod Bihari.
I have no complaints about the quality of Malabika Mitra’s s disciples doing nritta or a Bindadin thumri or Bhopali as Lakshya geet portraying viraha vedana or cosmic tranquillity. But the entire presentation resembled the usual solo Kathak rendered by a multitude of dancers. Each dancer in a different costume made for too much mismatched colour on stage.
GKCM Odissi Research Centre took us back to the days of yore with its dance drama “Aranga Ranga” with inputs from Nabakishore Misra helping choreographer Durgacharan Ranbir with Ramahari’s music. The dancing was disciplined and very neat, male dancers particularly finished.
Anita Sharma’s Abhinaya Dance Academy proved its worth with a commendably organised performances. Aesthetic costumes, excellent synchronisation and neat technique spoke volumes.