Dance

Kuchipudi exponent Vanashree Rao brought Puranic lore to the fore

Making Kuchipudi inclusive: Vanashree Rao showcasing her range   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Guru, choreographer, designer Vanashree Rao has taken Kuchipudi to novel heights by retaining its basic character like drama in dance. To make it appealing to a cross-section of audiences, she has interwoven a medley of dance forms, crafting the characters in keeping with their physical attributes and role so as to make for a convincing dance ballet. It is definitely easier to visualise a muscular, martial anti-hero through a Chhau dancer who is all muscle and sinew rather than a Bharatanatyam or Kuchipudi dancer who has rigid footwork and gesticulations to convince us of a mighty warrior persona.

“The Dramatic Tales-II” is a cluster of mythological episodes placed in a singularly original perspective. For instance, in the disrobing scene of Draupadi, the vision and stress is on post-issue. It shows Draupadi, praying to goddess Chandi to bestow victory on her husband Bheem in the combat with Dusshashan, and later Duryodhan. It’s through Draupadi’s flashback that the disrobing scene of Mahabharata is enacted as a brief anecdote, in the backdrop of the curse by the victim and her angst. As a whole, it brings alive the depth of the moral degradation to which a royalty could fall and the consequent ignition to vengeance in the hearts of the humiliated.

So was Abhimanyu Vadh (slaying of Abhimanyu). The Chhau dancers masked in order to make a point (evil intentions) make for the inextricable maze of a chakravyuh; one of the dancers donned the role of guru Drona, a brahmin who was known for imparting martial arts to all the princes of his times. The dance style was most suited to war combats – be it sword fight or flexing muscles in a wrestling match and so on. The awesome Chhau team – Kuleshwar K. Thakur, Prashant Kalia, Deepak Kandari, Mahesh and Arjun Dev Malik-were agility personified with commendable personalities and dancing skills.

So were the Kuchipudi dancers – Ayana Mukherjee who played Subhadra, Draupadi and also other roles, Moutushi Mazumder proved to be a elegant dancer while Ranjini Nair donned Abhimanyu’s role with elan. Her feats in the fight were marvellous to watch and she was able to elicit the audience sympathy in the finale. Bharatanatyam maestro S. Vasudevan gave his best in terms of dance and abhinaya, especially in the duels between the crocodile (Chhau artiste Kuleshwar) and elephant (Vasudevan) while depicting the Gajendra Moksh scene in the Swati Tirunal composition, ‘Sri Ramana vibho...’, as also in the Abhimanyu Vadh scene (as Bheem).

Tableau-like stance

His dance to ‘tanam,’ (as Bheema pledging to Draupadi) post the Chamuda/Kali worship was the highlight of the evening. The introduction of ‘tanam’ was a piece of choreographic brilliance. Equally interesting is the dandiya dance between the Kuchipudi girl dancers and their male Chhau counterparts. The conclusion of the episodes with a tableau-like stance enhanced the individual pieces like for instance, Vishnu atop Garuda, the mythical bird, represented by three dancers in tow. Dusshashan’s solo in Chhau was a delight to watch.

Purandhara Dasa’s ‘Jagaddhodharana...’ by Vanashree for most part, off-set now and then by other dancers gliding in and out to picturise an incident or two, was conducted with a dignity this very reputed kriti deserved. The introduction of a quick Dasavathara mime was an apt piece of creativity. The music enriched the bouquet of tales told through dance and drama. Costumes were very creatively fashioned bringing out the nature of the character to the audience.

The show was staged at New Delhi’s India Habitat Centre.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 11:53:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/puranic-lore-to-the-fore/article25565315.ece

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