Friday Review

Simplifying complex footwork

Ramya Ramnarayan.

Ramya Ramnarayan.   | Photo Credit: 15dfr Ranee

Ramya Ramnarayan demonstrated her expertise at a recent performance.

The ‘margam’ (pathway-traditional dance repertoire) in Bharatanatyam is an eternal, evergreen format and is as much applicable to an arangetram (maiden performance) as to an experienced artiste. It is like life where there is always so much more to explore and convey through the process of experiencing. This is what one felt as one watched Ramya Ramnarayan take us through her ‘margam’.

The auspicious Thodai mangalam took one down memory lane to the precincts of the temples down South while the dancer offered the conventional Pushpanjali tailed off with a viruttam (verse) to the lord of dance.

By the first piece, we knew we were in for a power-packed presentation where vigour and verve ruled the roost. The litmus test Varnam only consolidated its pre-view. The Pancharatna kriti composition of Thyagaraja in Arabhi, set to skilful choreography, elucidated the import of ‘Saadhinchene O manasa...’ which speaks of Krsna’s craft and clever mode in diffusing situations, be it crucial or comical. Going by the song where chronology of events lose track, Ramya expressed the Gita discourse (Bodhinchina sanmargamu) to anchor Arjuna in the Kuruskshetra battle ground and then went on to depict a chastising Yashoda and an impish child Krsna (samayaniki tagu mataladene ) who fakes innocence. A youthful Krsna who teases the gopis while blessing them with salvation. Scenes like Yashoda lulling baby Krsna to sleep in her lap and in the process nearly dropping off to sleep herself, and displaying Yamuna waters through circling across the stage was Ramya’s real ‘saadhinchene’ (achievement).

Her forte however lay in nritta where the footwork patterns were complex, artistic and multifarious. These interlaced the song as is the custom and lifted the Varnam to a new high. Such difficult footwork patterns were executed with ease and elan in the tri-kalai (three speed cycles).

The pace to tala maintained with absolute accuracy and grace which is no mean achievement; the dancer faltering on the tala is a common thing in the present generation artistes! The guru S. Rajaratnam Pillai came alive in his disciple’s body kinetics and exceptional nritta. Full utilisation of stage space in a solo with meaningful footwork seemed one of her many strong-points.

An energetic piece is often followed by one or two mellow pieces both as a breather to the dancer as well as a relief to the viewers.

So followed an Ashtapadi (sakhi hey kesi mandana muraram) in Shudda Saranga and a tilting Javali (nee matalemaye raa) in Poorvi Kalyani raga.

The Ashtapadi could have been even slower to be appreciated while the dancer paced it to the Bharatanatyam format which perhaps is justified going by this medium. The Javali where Ramya personified the Khandita nayika who questions her beloved’s slip on the promise of love to her. A short, swift and succulent piece enacted in a smooth and suave manner.

As always, the margam ended with a tillana, no not from the Lalgudi repertoire, but Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna’s ‘Pancha priya’ (flow of five raga ending with priya) where the pace at which the tala moves in the beat, varies to suit the dancing feet.

The lightning speed with which Ramya was able to highlight this beautifully bizarre tillana spoke volumes of her grip over the medium.

The pre-recorded song and accompaniment was perfect.

It was a pleasure to listen to the maestro’s original nattuvangam and vocal singing when he is no more but still seemed there in his disciple.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 6:33:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Simplifying-complex-footwork/article13999536.ece

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