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Talent, beauty and grace

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A dance festival saw seasoned dancers and beginners on a common platform

Two evenings resonated with beats of the mridangam and cymbals at the Naatya Kaustubh Nritotsav at TDM Hall. Organised by the Satyanjali Academy of Kuchipudi Dance, under the guidance of Kuchipudi exponent Anupama Mohan, the Nritotsav, in its second year, could bring some seasoned as well as budding dancers to the fore. It was a launching platform for a few students of the academy, too.

Jayarama Rao, a Padmashree awardee who performed a tarangam with his student Reddy Lakshmi, stole the show with his magnetic stage presence and incredible stances and moves. “It is wonderful for the young to perform with the experienced dancers. Moreover, presenting all the major dance forms in one festival is a challenge and Anupama Mohan did a great job. She is one of the early disciples of Vempatti Chinnasatyam, and is doing yeoman work to groom young talent and promote Kuchipudi in Kerala.”

Shwetha Venkatesh charmed with her Kathak swirls and footwork. She portrayed the divine connection between Prakriti and Purusha in a thematic piece. It was this Kathak performance which captivated Neenu Sudheesh, a tenth grader and a Kuchipudi student of Anupama for two years.

“I got to be part of a group choreography Brahmanjali , which was a blessing. Coming from a small village in Kollam, I am watching such a huge festival for the first time,” Neenu says.

Roopa Kiran, a student of Vasundhara Doraiswami, flew all the way from Hong Kong to perform Bharatanatyam at the festival. “Kerala has a discerning crowd who are glued to the seats till the end of a recital. It was inspiring to perform here.”

Anupama adds: “It was challenging to get the senior dancers to perform, I could afford more of them last year, but this year it is only Jayarama Rao.” Jayarama Rao felt that many festivals tended to sideline the male dancers, who deserve equal opportunities. Certainly not this one. “I could have brought in more abhinaya elements had I got a longer slot,” he added.

Saji Menon who runs her own Mohiniyattam dance school in Mumbai is a student of Kanak Rele. She does not hide her excitement when she says, “I am from Shoranur, and it gives me goose bumps every time I perform in Kerala.”

Her Kubja was one of the well-received numbers in the festival. She performed the angst of an old maid of Kamsa, who yearningly waits forKrishna to liberate her.

A number of eye balls popped out when Sudhakar Reddy dressed in the female attire performed Bhamakalapam . His mannerisms and coyness exuded feminine grace throughout and the technique is called Roopanuroopam in Kuchipudi parlance.

“There are few male dancers who perform Kuchipudi in this fashion. I want to carry on this tradition, and would always dance only in the female costume, and I want to set a record of sorts since this tradition is dying out,” asserts Sudhakar.

Nagalakshmi Bhagavathulu hails from a traditional family of performers. Manjushree Panda’s Oddissi performance etched out the navarasas . Snigdha Sinha performed what she claimed was neoclassical Bharatanatyam. Performing to recorded commercial albums, her performance was far from classical.

Architha Aneesh, who was the Kalathilakam of the recently held Mahatma Gandhi University youth festival and a student of Anupama, says: “I was busy with the competitions, so could crunch in some time to watch a few brilliant performances. Of all the dance forms I perform, I like Kuchipudi the best for its natural abhinaya and innate grace. I have been learning from Anupama for more than six years and used to travel with her to similar festivals, from which I have learnt tremendously. This festival has been Anupama teacher’s dream.”

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