Dance

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan explored the power of visualisation

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan.

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

How does a dancer react to presenting a solo art as a duo performance? Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan walked on eggshells while meeting the challenge with sensitivity. It was an abhinaya-dominated show, Bragha’s forte. There was a finesse in alternating role play, as they offered the Bhramaramba Ashtakam as an invocation. The goddess Durga in Srisailam is so named because she released thousands of bees from her body to kill demon Arunasura. The music in ragamalika, talamalika by D. Srivatsa, was soft and soothing corresponding to the unhurried pace of the short nritta swaras.

Thought-provoking and expressive

Bragha’s thought-provoking abhinaya, more through the eyes, contrasted with Navia’s energy-infused, expressive abhinaya. The dancers added another character, in this case a woman, to tell her side of the story in ‘Ososi’ (Mukhari, mishra chapu, Muthu Thandavar). Bragha sits indifferent to her nayaka’s accusations in shadow, coming forward to recall the happier times in a deftly woven musical interlude. She speaks of an injury to his head, that she tended to, ending on a note of intrigue. What happened in the interim to their relationship? Was this a memory loss? Or did someone influence him about her? A situational reference had suddenly turned into a believable, interesting storyline.

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan.

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A conversation between Rukmini and Parvathi highlighting the absurdities of Shiva and Vishnu provided a lighter note and an animated role play. The Purandaradasar Devarnama was a Ninda Stuthi tuned in Bilahari raga, Adi (tisra gati) by vocalist Nandini Anand Sharma.

Nandini was supported by Eashwar Ramakrishnan (violin), Ananthashree (nattuvangam) and Vedakrishnaram (mridangam). It was a team that emphasised softness and musicality.

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan.

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The dancers performed online for the third instalment of Natyavamsham, a teacher-student themed series curated by Rama Vaidyanathan and hosted by Gayatri Subramanian, and the Guru G.V. Ramani Natya Kala Foundation in celebration of 10 years of the foundation’s annual Margazhi festival. Natyavamsham stands for legacy, transference and sharing, so the teacher-disciple duo discussed the subject in between the offerings.

Bragha’s retelling of guru Kalanidhi Narayanan’s abhinaya teaching made for a compelling listen — her understanding of the lyrics, her emphasis on unravelling the emotions to be explored. Guru Kalanidhi was also particular about focussing on the other characters around the protagonist, so that the scene could be brought alive. Bragha highlighted her guru’s sense of aesthetics that was marked by subtlety — using just the eyes for precision in characterisation.

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan during the third edition of Natyavamsham series, 2022.

Bragha Bessell and Navia Natarajan during the third edition of Natyavamsham series, 2022. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Transference meant imbibing, and adding life’s experiences to the interpretations. Sharing was in the time taken by her guru to teach a piece, so the student could absorb and soak up the learning.

Navia felt that the legacy included life experiences and philosophy of the teacher that shaped her. Transference meant the lyrics, meaning, technique, character, etc., and also the energy transfer that takes place alongside. She equated sharing to slow cooking, where the process matters as much as the technicalities.

The Chennai-based writer reviews classical dance.


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Printable version | May 27, 2022 1:28:26 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/bragha-bessell-and-navia-natarajan-explored-the-power-of-visualisation/article65464153.ece