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Confluence of classicism and aesthetics

Mohiniyattam dancer Methil Devika performing at the dance festival in Kochi

Mohiniyattam dancer Methil Devika performing at the dance festival in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Reputed performers moved centre stage at a week-long dance festival in Kochi

A seven-day dance festival in Kochi was an earnest attempt to provide a stage for most of the Indian classical dance forms. The festival began with a day-long lecture demonstration and performance led by Sreedevi Rajan and Kala Vijayan, daughters of renowned Mohiniyattam danseuse, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma.

On the same evening, Methil Devika performed ̥Mohiniyattam. Her recital began with a cholkettu in praise of Siva and Sakthi. The chollus (syllables) that carried an ethnic flavour gelled with the dancer’s delicate movements. The piece was emotionally and spiritually dedicated to the recently deceased flautist, Kalpathy Sooryanarayanan. Next, she did Peelippattu composed with lines from Sthalapuranam. Switching from Vilwamangalam Swamiyar to child Krishna and to the Zamorin, Devika seemed to be moved by the lyrics and the contextual moods. She persuasively portrayed the excitement and incredulity of the Zamorin as child Krishna appears before him out of the blue.

Devika then chose Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Navavarana kriti for visual delineation. Taken from the abstract concept of Sreechakra, ‘Sreekamalamba Jayathi’ in raga Ahari and Roopaka tala is challenging in many respects for any dancer to translate the lyrics into angika and satwika. Devika built up the image of Mahatripurasundari with her distinctive choreography and evocative expressions. Devi annihilating the demon Vritra, whose thirst for water brings in severe drought, causing untold misery to the world, was imaginatively presented. While zeroing in on the Siva-Parvati union, the dancer’s presentation touched upon the metaphysical terrain. In the Ashtapadi, ‘Nijagadasa Yadunandana’, which followed, Devika presented Radha as an epitome of lasya. The concluding item was Buddha in Nirvana, again an abstract piece underpinning the concept of ‘emptiness’. Absence of a live orchestra was conspicuous through and through.

Meera Sreenarayanan’s Bharatanatyam performance at the dance festival in Kochi

Meera Sreenarayanan’s Bharatanatyam performance at the dance festival in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

On the second day, young Bharatanatyam dancer Meera Sreenarayanan impressed the audience with her recital. The slokam ‘Samudravasane devi’, preceding the Alarippu in Chaturasradhruva tala, was enacted by the dancer by employing visually vivid phrases. Meera’s theermanams (steps executed thrice in consonance with the hand-movement as a finishing segment) were fluent and gorgeous. She presented Swarajathi as the pièce-de-résistance of her recital. Set to raga Hussaini and Roopaka tala, the Ponnayya Pillai composition depicts the lamentations of the Nayika who feels deceived by the Nayaka, King Pratapasimha. Each part of her body eloquently conveyed the feeling of offence, displeasure, jealousy and dejection experienced by the Nayika. In contrast, for the line, ‘Kaaminijanachithachora’ (one who has stolen the hearts of the beauties), Meera portrayed how deeply the Nayika has been drawn to the king who, however, rebuked her for reasons unknown. In the succeeding segment executed in a relatively fast tempo with jathi and swaras, Meera’s virtuosity came to the fore. Nuances of the thisragati were fully explored. The anger of the Nayika towards the king giving way to anguish was an emotional spark the dancer portrayed at the very end. ‘Sakhi hei Kesi’ from Gita Govinda, sung in raga Sudhasarang, saw Meera portray Radha. She imbued subtleties of expressions in the charanam, ‘Pradhamasamagama’. Meera concluded her performance with the Lalgudi thillana in raga Tilang.

Geetha Padmakumar and Bijula Balakrishnan performing Kuchipudi at the dance festival in Kochi

Geetha Padmakumar and Bijula Balakrishnan performing Kuchipudi at the dance festival in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Geetha Padmakumar and Bijula Balakrishnan started their Kuchipudi recital with the Purandaradasa composition ‘Gajavadana’ as homage to their guru, Vempati Chinna Satyam. Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi ‘Pralayapayodhi’ was presented as the next item in which the dancers did the Dasavathara (10 incarnations) of Lord Vishnu. Both dancers could communicate smoothly with the spectators. A sprightly Bijula performed a javali of Dharmapuri Subbarayar in which she drove home the deep concern of the Nayika towards the Nayaka whom she suspects to be fond of another lady. Geetha presented another Ashtapadi, ‘Sancharadadharasudha’, later. The dancers concluded their concert with a thillana composed in raga Hamsanandi and Adi tala.

Kathak dancers Hari and Chethana on stage at the dance festival in Kochi

Kathak dancers Hari and Chethana on stage at the dance festival in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Kathak presented by Hari and Chethana was a memorable experience. Chethana started off with a piece dedicated to Goddess Saraswathy. In the second item, ‘Nadabrahma’, Hari and two female dancers portrayed the trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. Alluring angikabhinaya (expressions by means of the body and the limbs) empowered by astute footwork in the 16 beat-cycle was a feast for the eyes. As the central piece of their performance, the duo presented a Khayal in praise of Lord Krishna. In tune with the slokam, ‘Kasturithilakam’, the image of Krishna was symbolically recreated on stage. The dance piece proclaimed the virtuosity of the dancers, especially with regard to rhythm, tempo and flexibility. A brief jugalbandi, more like a dialogue between the dancers and the percussion followed. The duo then presented Swathi Thirunal’s popular verse, ‘Chaliye kunchanu’, in raga Vrindavani. The final piece was ‘Sivanjali’, an offering to Lord Siva and the dancers touched upon Sreerudra mantra and Mrutyunjaya Sthothram, prayers in praise of Lord Siva. The artificial fumes that enveloped the stage from time to time ruined the ambience of the recital considerably.

Neelamana Sisters, Draupadi Praveen and Padmini Krishnan, presenting Bharatanatyam-Kuchipudi jugalbandi at the dance festival in Kochi

Neelamana Sisters, Draupadi Praveen and Padmini Krishnan, presenting Bharatanatyam-Kuchipudi jugalbandi at the dance festival in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Neelamana Sisters, Draupadi Praveen and Padmini Krishnan, showcased a variety of items in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi formats. Their ebullience and penchant for thematic narration with theatrical undertones caught the attention of the spectators.

Mohiniyattam danseuse Jayaprabha Menon who performed on the sixth day of the fete began her recital with a prayer to Lord Ganesha. Raga Kedaram followed by Neelambari enriched the ambience and Jayaprabha did her best in the pure dance segment in harmony with the chollu of the edakka. She then moved on to Kundalinippattu. Serpentine movements in sync with the music bearing an ethnic touch made the piece an unusual treat for the viewers.

Jayaprabha Menon’s Mohiniyattam recital at the dance festival in Kochi

Jayaprabha Menon’s Mohiniyattam recital at the dance festival in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The Ashtapadi, ‘Harirabhisarati’, which she chose to present as the next item, was a pleasant diversion from the usual mood of separation Radha is associated with. She portrayed the ‘kalahandarika nayika’ (heroine exasperated by the hero’s lack of concern). Jayaprabha’s presentation of Swathi Thirunal’s ‘Poonthen Nermozhi’ was filled with aesthetic nuances. Her involvement in the execution of the satwika could have been a little more intense. The last two pieces, ‘Chailye Kunchanu’ and ‘Varshagamana’ were effortlessly performed.

Sandhya Manoj stages Odissi at the dance festival in Kochi

Sandhya Manoj stages Odissi at the dance festival in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The concluding programme was an Odissi recital by a Malaysia-based dancer, Sandhya Manoj. But for the swarajathi/pallavi, the dancer stuck to the compositions of Swathi Thirunal. Hers was an attempt to attribute the language of Odissi to bewitching lyrics such as ‘Utsavaprabandham’, ‘Paramapurusha’ and ‘Aaj Aaye’.

The festival was held under the auspices of the Nrithaswadaka Sadas, a cultural body functioning under the Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram, at Changampuzha Park, Edappally.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 2:41:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/dance-festival-organised-at-kochi/article30345720.ece

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