Simple, poetic, precise

Dancers Praveen Kumar and Meenakshi Srinivasan’s performances were driven by the dancers’ individualistic coding and creativity

At a time and place, where there is constant questioning of the relevance and value of Indian classical solo dancing, an evening at the econd edition of Rasoham Festival of Dance, an annual performing arts festival by Vibhavana foundation, had two sure answers. Bharatanatyam soloists, Praveen Kumar and Meenakshi Srinivasan, walked the audience through - and reminded again - why it is a matter of sheer bliss to be hooked to their seats and drawn into the subtle nuances of Indian classical dance, driven by the dancers’ individualistic coding and creativity.

Creativity is difficult to articulate, and is often not the same thing, even in adjacent contexts. Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan's words, creativity is the spark which makes the familiar unfamiliar or unfamiliar familiar, from the anthology, Metaphors of the Indian Arts, echo. Quite literally applicable, Praveen's crystal-clear choreography was about turning the familiar into a spectacle, while Meenakshi's performance was about using layered choreography to bring out the simple essence of meaning.

Praveen Kumar presented the oft-delineated subject of Krishna and Arjuna's friendship, in 'Sakha'. Instances from childhood, adulthood, right up to the epic dilemma in the Kurukshetra faced by Arjuna, and Krishna's constant presence through it all, was elevated by Praveen's slow and sustained choreography. Minimalistic as it was, the portrayal did not miss the smallest of details, such as the tension in the catapult when Arjuna and Krishna shot mangoes as young boys, or the larger-than-life Vishwaroopam, overwhelming Arjuna. Praveen's javali, steered away from the typical focus on the doubts and anxiety of the Nayika, and elaborated the concerns of a Nayaka coming home to his distressed heroine. While the exchanges between the two were portrayed sensitively, the Nayaka persuading his heroine uneventfully, left one wondering what the problem was. Ananga Vilasa, Praveen’s last piece, choreographed the beautiful description of the very fascinating Manmadha. The formless Ananga is otherwise often reduced to the one who makes brief appearances, to shoot arrows of love. The piece was based on a metaphorical shloka, that brought out the uniqueness of an archer who does not shoot and split his object, rather as one whose arrows unite. A marble of paints, where each colour unhurriedly flows into each other to make an inimitable pattern, would be a visual parallel to Praveen's dancing.

Simple, poetic, precise

It was an interesting paradox to observe that the two solos of the evening had a lot in common on paper, such as ingrained musicality, uncluttered arrangement of choreographic ideas and flawless execution, but were so distinctly different from each other. If simple and precise was the statement of the first solo presentation, Meenakshi Srinivasan's solo on the other hand, was poetically precise. Embellished to the last possibility, her dancing nevertheless spoke a straight-forward and accessible language. With the invocatory piece, “Bhogendra Shayinam”, Meenakshi clearly established what she defined her dancing as - an extension of the music, what with the wonderful musicians in the orchestra. In the rare Tanjore quartette varnam, in Karnataka Kapi, she blew the minds of the audience with her demanding jathis, contrasted by her evocative abhinaya, of a Nayika longing for union with Lord Brihadeeshwara. Leading to the finale of the evening, was a piece on the possibility of Sudhama's poverty-stricken life not transforming after his meeting with Krishna. Drawing on rich literature, the characterisation, right from Dwaraka, as the city of gates, to every detail of the episode, was sublime. Bharathiyar's poetry performed in Ragam Desh in the Tthillana, was truly transcendental.

The final verse qualifying water as ‘Jeeva Karana Tatvam’ connected back to ‘Cauvery Calling’, the campaign that the Rasoham festival contributed to, from its proceeds.

The opening day of the festival presented two solos by Matangi Prasan and Divya Morghode Ghogale. The solos on the first day of the festival were followed by ‘Shrimant Yogi’, a dance production on Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, performed by Sankhya Dance company, led by Vaibhav Arekar. Indian classical dancing is increasingly stemming into wonderful new territory, with aesthetics being rooted in classicism. The performances in the Rasoham festival were definitely aligned in that direction.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 10:33:28 AM |

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