Seasoned Bharatanatyam exponent Geeta Chandran’s recently organised World Dance Day celebrations, commemorating 15 years of her collaboration with India International Centre.
This year, the festivities were marked with lectures, workshops, and a young dancers’ festival. Chhau maestro Santosh Nair inaugurated the festival with his workshop on body and movement while Manohar Balatchandirane on mridrangam in a collaborative one day workshop with Geeta Chandran rendered a session on rhythms in dance focusing on different tala patterns. Ambassador Pavan K. Varma’s lecture titled, “The Glorious Legacy of Indian Culture: Challenges & Opportunities” and Rema Shrikant’s performance illustrated session with her young team from Vadodara opened the much needed platform for dialogue in the artist community.
Embossed on the cultural map of Delhi, the young dancers’ festival opened with an Odissi performance by Rajashri Praharaj from Bhubaneswar. Accompanied on mardala by her guru Ratikant Mohapatra, the dancer chose to pay a tribute to the genius of Guru Kelucharan Mohaptra by performing his quintessential compositions only, as this is also the fifteenth year of Guru ji’s passing away.
Invoking the presiding deity of Puri through Jagannatha Ashtakam, Rajashri blended the mangalacharna with Hamsadhwani Pallavi. With the juxtaposition of gentle and swift movements in this pallavi which incorporates all the five jatis, clad in deep blue and red, the dancer had a solid stamp of her Guru’s style. Next, she presented “Sita Haran”, the pièce de résistance choreography of the late maestro. Its music was composed by late Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi, yet another artist par excellence. The much known storyline of Ravana’s abduction of Sita by his con of sending a golden deer and adorning himself as a rishi to force Sita cross the lakshman rekha, fetched the dancer much applause because of her ability to pull off the ekharya abhinaya while portraying multiple characters at once. The soulful voice of Jatin Kumar Sahu was also an added feature in the dancer’s overall presentation.
Next in the line-up was Rupanshi Kashyap, a student of Guru Kumudini Lakhia, from Ahmedabad. She began with a vandana depicting Lord Ganesha praising her mother Bhawani in raga Puriya Dhanashri in Ektala. This was followed by the dancer’s attempt at showcasing layakari through technique variations in tatkar. The pieces that stood out were tukras in madhya laya ending in paltas with Tha Thunga syllables in khanda, chatushra, and mishra jatis. Another was a technical piece taught to Rupanshi by the late Kathak guru Vijay Shankar while he was visiting Kumudini Lakhia’s school, in which the emphasis was on the left foot. With an abhinaya in raga Brindawani Sarang, ‘Ban Ban Dhundat Jaun..’, ending in a sawal jawab between the tabla and the dancer’s ankle bells, curtains came down on the first evening of this festival.
The second night began with Manasvini Ramchandran’s Bharatanatyam. The dancer hailing from Chennai had an impressive list of gurus including the likes of Padma Subramaniam, Chitra Vishveshwaran, Sheejit Krishna and her mother Revathi Ramchandran. Commencing with a Viruttam in raga Karaharapriya, Manasvini dived into the massive Mohamana Varnam in raga Bhairavi Adi tala. The nayika addressed Lord Shiva residing in Thiruvayur: ‘O lord, I am full of love for you. My pining heart seems to be scorched by the cooling moonlight and even sandal paste. Madana’s arrows pierce my being, torturing my soul in viraha. Please unite with me o lord and free me of this pain.’ The dancer with her restricted subtle abhinaya, clean lines, and interesting jati patterns infused with the varnam garnered much appreciation from the audience. Manasvini ended her recital with a Shuddh Nritya followed by a Kabir Bhajan.
As a tribute to the recently passed Karaikudi P. Shivakumar, Geeta Chandran, appropriately, chose to draw curtains on this year’s World Dance Day festival with her dance company Natya Vriksha performing compositions like Natanam Adinar, Pratidhwani, Thillana and so forth on which the late artist had himself given inputs. with which she gave a befitting homage to an artist of much repute in the capital’s dance scene.