The pioneer of Perini

Nataraj Ramakrishna  

Being a pioneer or revivalist is not an easy task. It requires uncommon courage of conviction and perseverance. Fortunately for Perini dance, Nataraj Ramakrishna (1923-2011), renowned Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Andhranatyam exponent and guru, dance-historian, and choreographer, had both these qualities. Thanks to him, the lost art of Perini has been revived and found its rightful place among the pantheon of Indian traditional dances.

Perini flourished centuries ago in the Telugu-speaking regions, reaching its peak during the Kakatiya rule. The dance finds mention in the early medieval work Bharataarnavam by Nandikeshwara. Based on this work, Ramakrishna first made mention of Perini in his award-winning book Daakshinaatyula Natyakala Charithra (1968). Later, he made several visits to Ramappa temple, Palampet, to write a commentary on their sculptures as part of Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sarma’s Telugu translation of Jaaya Senani’s Sanskrit classic, Nritta Ratnavali .

That translation was published but not his commentary. Ramakrishna felt slighted. Moreover, he realised that none of the later works on dance had given due importance to Perini. He also believed it had great potential. All this created in him a resolve to revive that lost art.

On a revivalPerini Shiva thandavam, Nataraj Ramakrishna, Kalakrishna, Anuradha JonnalagaddaG Ramakrishna

On a revivalPerini Shiva thandavam, Nataraj Ramakrishna, Kalakrishna, Anuradha JonnalagaddaG Ramakrishna  


The war connect

Explains Kalakrishna, noted Andhranatyam performer and guru, long-time disciple of Ramakrishna, and Perini-expert: “Perini was presented for soldiers as inspiration (before the war) and entertainment (after the war). My guru based his re-conceptualisation on textual evidence from Bharataarnavam , Nritta Ratnavali , Sarangadeva’s Sangeeta Rathnakara , and Sarvagna Bhoopala Yachendra’s Sabharanjani . These works helped him visualise Perini’s movement techniques as did a study of sculptures in Telangana temples especially Ramappa. Valuable inputs came from his guru Rajamma and his own vast knowledge of several classical dance forms.”

Adds Kuchipudi dancer and Professor of Dance, University of Hyderabad, Anuradha Jonnalagadda who studied for her doctorate under Ramakrishna and later worked under him as faculty member at this university, “His revival and reconstruction of Perini was the culmination of his decades-long study of Telugu dance traditions, the dance-texts and musical traditions pertaining to this part of the country, and study of (his pet-topic) the intimate relation between music and dance. He emphasised that sounds of percussion instruments and ‘solukattu’ (’shushkaaksharaalu’) generate a kind of vibration which in turn shapes the structure of movements of a dance.”

The pioneer of Perini

Hence, Ramakrishna decided that Perini music ie., sound and vibrations should be in sync with a dance for soldiers. He used music’s ‘drupada sampradayam’ inviting experts of that tradition like Dhoopam Suryalingam and Dharmavaram Guruvulu to develop a specific mridangam-playing style for Perini. He employed jathis/shabdas drawn from dance-text Nandeeshwara Bharatam and Shaiva Agamas . He thus reconstructed Perini’s sequence of movements and found ideal accompanying musical instruments. The aaharyam was visualised on the basis of descriptions for Perini in Nritta Ratnavali ’s 7th chapter, with some modifications to suit a classical-dance form. Wisely, he also considered the modern stage when reconstructing it.

Kalakrishna and Anuradha add: “It was conceptualised as a Shiva-thatvam dance because Ramakrishna understood the importance of Shaivism/Veera-Shaivism for the Kakatiyas and people of the region where Perini flourished.”

Ramakrishna’s revival efforts were supported by Andhra Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi. In one essay, he wrote: “My 14-year-old-dream came true on January 26, 1974, when the first Perini performance was held under the aegis of AP Sangeet Natak Akademi.”

His passion for Perini led him to give lecture-dems, conduct workshops across India for both the laity and the learned. He also authored articles on the art-form.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 2:33:10 PM |

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