Friday Review

A melange of expressions

RICH DIVERSITY Sharodi Saikia and her Sattriya group.

RICH DIVERSITY Sharodi Saikia and her Sattriya group.  

Distinct dance forms exploring the rich tapestry of traditions marked the “Saare Jahan Se Accha” festival in New Delhi.

The final day of the two-day classical dance cluster ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha’ saw group choreographies from the North East, Mohiniattam by a duo and an Odissi solo, which turned out to be a varied platter pleasing to the eye.

The Sattriya and Manipuri dances, though poles apart, had a common thread — the prevalence of a strong streak of 15th Century Vaishnavism (Krishna cult); the song, verse and dance sequences were culled out of Bhagavat (extolling the life and pranks of Lord Krishna) and fortified through the 12th Century saint-poet Jayadeva’s “Gita Govinda”. Another remarkable commonality in all the four forms was exquisite elegance in movements at any given pace. The Sattriya, (a dance that originated in Sattras/Hindu monasteries), a very quaint and interesting classical art form where the orchestra (khol/drum and cymbals) also dances with the main dancer so unlike the other classical dances.

Veteran dancer Sharodi Saikia and her team of four accompanists opened the evening to give us a glimpse of Srimanta Shankardeva and Madhavdeva’s choreographies and compositions that extolled the greatness of Lord Krishna even as they mimed and danced to anecdotes from his childhood and youth as enumerated in the Bhagavata. While the males went into antics in tune with the taal, Sharodi concentrated on the expression through simple but gentle gestures, like for instance the gopi’s gait in trying to balance the ‘matka’ (mud pot) on her head, Krishna cleverly distributing stolen butter to his little friends before gulping it down himself and Yashoda’s ‘na jayo, na jayo..’ refrain as Krishna disappears!

The Manipuri by Imphal-based Jawaharlal Nehru Dance Academy being the last, was a little long-drawn one with repetitive gestures to pre-recorded music but the series of Ashtapadis- ‘Chandana charchita... , Priye charusheele...’ danced by the group (a male-female ensemble) was worth a watch. The male dancers’ footwork and movements were distinctly Tandava in style but the execution was not very martial and the female dancers were markedly soft and restricted in the lasya mode as prescribed in the dance treatises. Radha, the nayika in these Ashtapadi, came across in some of the eight embodiments of an artistic nayika (heroine) like the virohatkantita (pining lover), the vasavasajjika (adorned heroine) and the abhisarika (on a rendezvous) and so on. The costume was not the usual billowy skirt but something more unique.

Bhubaneswar-based Rajashri Praharaj from the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra school was the star performer of the evening with just two brilliant pieces that drew instantaneous applause . Unlike the run-of-the-mill Odissi repertoire, she began (in a la South-Indian custom) with Vinayaka Smaran, an invocatory where she took up the Ganesha Dwadasa nama stotram dwelling exclusively on each of the 12 names, interpreting them through extensive footwork and gestures in the pure Odissi bani. Rajashri’s entry was akin to a temple figurine come to life . She was rhythm incarnate as she traipsed across the stage to measured footwork with deer feet that paced with lucid and lithe body kinetics. The freezing postures and amazing balance on feet, at the culmination of each avarthan was picture perfect, especially the statuesque ‘eka danta’! Excellent delineation of the connotation of each name with brisk matching footwork with perfect sense of Laya further enhanced the piece. Following this, was the Pallavi, again a one-of-its-kind pure dance piece set to a rare tala, the Pancham Sabari (15 beat divided as 4-3-4-4) in raag Chandrakauns. Rajashri executed the complex, elaborate gamut of bhol patterns and swar bhols that with tireless ease and elan, never missing out the quintessential sway of Odissi that was mind-boggling to the viewers. Kudos to choreographer Guru Ratikant Mohapatra for this rich rhythmic tapestry as also the earlier Vinayak Smaran, both of which seemed conceived with a brilliant, latticed artistry that was singularly original without deviating from classicality.

Mohiniattam, another swaying dance form, these days has gained in pace of manoeuvring the foot movements perhaps because it was losing popularity due to its slow pace in a fast-track world! So it seemed with Manjula Murthy and Vidya Narayanan. The duo had taken the art form to a different level without losing out on its innate beauty and divinity. Excellent jati patterns set to medium and at times fast tempo prefacing the lines of ‘Dheera sameerey...’ Ashtapadi was reminiscent of the Bharatanatyam style of dancing though not as linear. The swar to the beautiful Kedaragowla raga to which this Ashtapadi was set was lilting to say the least. The erotic element was deftly depicted with bird pair to the line — rati sukha sarey, giving us a peek into the range of artistic creativity. The scintillating Natakurinji raga-based pure dance footwork was again a thing of beauty. The duo moved beautiful rhythmic shifting and positioning alternately facing each other or back-to-back in absolute sync which looked picturesque. With few mudras like the pataka hasta, ala padmam, etc and swirling adavus (feet set to mnemonic utterances), Mohiniattam proved once again to be as mesmerising at its name implies. The festival was hosted by Utsav Ranjana’s Odissi Dance Academy at New Delhi’s India Habitat Centre.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 12:09:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/A-melange-of-expressions/article14589033.ece

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