Lecture-demonstration Dance

The role of nattuvanar in Natya

Lasya and Lavanya  

Vasanthalakshmi Narasimhachari, the graceful dancer, choreographer and nattuvanar, recently delivered a sparkling lecture-demonstration for Natyarangam, the dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha. The topic, “In conversation with Natyam and Nattuvangam” was thought provoking. Many from the Bharatanatyam fraternity and rasikas had come mainly for two reasons — appearance of Vasanthalakshmi on the dance stage and the creativity in choreography involving adavus and jatis, for which the Narasimhacharis are well-known.

Vasanthalakshmi, who began her career in dance at a very young age, joined Narasimhachari as his wife and partner in 1969 and together they danced, taught and set up their dance school. So it was only fitting that she started the programme with a tribute to Narasimhachari and mentioned how fortunate she was to have had the opportunity to watch a genius at close quarters.

The lecture started with Vasanthalakshmi describing Natyam as a comprehensive body and Nattuvangam being an important limb of that whole, and one that encompasses and ensures a smooth flow of all the aspects pertaining to the presentation. Natyam has undergone changes over the years and today takes on many formats — solo, group and dance-drama. The same is true with the art of Nattuvangam. Traditionally the Nattuvanar was the guru and the choreographer, and also the one who wielded the cymbals. In recent times the Nattuvanar is often another accompanying artiste. But Vasanthalakshmi described the Nattuvanar as the “Sutradhar” of the present day, whose responsibility it is to maintain a constant ‘conversation’ with the singer, percussion-player and the dancer. She also talked of how Narasimhachari was a gifted choreographer, who would create ‘moments’ within his pieces in such a way that fellow-musicians could also showcase their talents.



Drawing a parallel between words and adavus, Vasanthalakshmi said that just as words embellished poetry, adavus and jatis when juxtaposed intelligently could be challenging and enjoyable. This was so aptly demonstrated in the adavus for an arudi in the Uttarangam of a jati wherein, the recitation remains the same for all the three repetitions and the Adavu changes every time. The reverse of the above was also done where, the Adavu remains the same and the recitation changes each time. Vasanthalakshmi would modulate her sollukattus to match the action, which increased the overall effect.

To underline the importance of bridging the gap between the theory and the practice of Natya, Vasanthalakshmi chose from Natyasastra an exclusive number — ‘Paravasam tarumkalai Bharathakalai” in Tamil and “Paravasapradamee Natya Kala” in Telugu. Here the same piece lent itself to choreography in two different styles — Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. This was ably demonstrated by Lavanya and Lasya, daughters and disciples of the Narasimhacharis.

Regarding thematic productions, Vasanthalakshmi spoke of ‘Ainthinai,’ the production for ABHAI, which brought together 50 dancers, who belonged to different schools of Bharatanatyam. In order to bring harmony new adavus were created, it was pointed out. This was highlighted by Shivakumar and Sailaja in the visually and aesthetically appealing Abheri thillana, choreographed by the Narasimhacharis. In Bharathanatyam, the conversation between Natyam and Nattuvangam changes its colour and flavour depending on the theme and the music. A video excerpt from Ainthinai showed the Mullai landscape being presented as a folk dance, to depict forest dwellers. The importance of the judicious use of Tattu-Mettu was conveyed through an interesting nugget.

A gifted lyricist and linguist, Vasanthalakshmi kept the audience riveted with her flawless diction of the complex jatis and sollukattus. She urged dancers and choreographers to bear in mind the identity and uniqueness of each style and not exceed the boundaries of traditional format in their explorations. An important message to present day gurus and nattuvanars was to always have the presence of mind to handle unexpected situations in a performance. But this would not be possible unless the Nattuvanar remains constantly engaged in “conversation” with all the others involved in the presentation. This importance of Nattuvangam creating a synergy among all vital aspects of Natya would ultimately lead to Rasaanubhava.

Vasanthalakshmi Narasimhachari’s lecture was supported by dancers Shivakumar, Sailaja Shivakumar, Vijay Kasturi Rangachari, Ramya Ramesh Gopal, Lavanya Mavillapalli and Lasya Mavillapalli. Sridhar Pasupuleti was in-charge of the audio-video presentation.

Golden jubilee

The golden jubilee of Kalasamarpan Foundation, which M.V. Narasimhachari and wife Vasanthalakshmi started in 1969 has completed 50 years. The golden jubilee of the organisation will be celebrated on August 4 at the Narada Gana Sabha with a 90-minute offering of Natyam. This will be a retrospective, featuring excerpts from 32 of their dance-dramas and thematic presentations. ‘Swarnaanjali’ will also feature a exhibition of rare images of the Charis. A walk-through gallery in the lobby will be open to viewing 5 p.m. onwards. The dance offering will take place 6-8 p.m.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2021 2:37:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/the-role-of-nattuvanar-in-natya/article28708274.ece

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