Dance

A veteran enthrals

Sita Swayamvaram at Kalakshetra. Photo: V. Ganesan   | Photo Credit: V_GANESAN

The immense contribution to the art form of Bharatanatyam by Rukmini Devi has given her an iconic status in the annals of History, and her fame continues to live in the cultural memory of art lovers. Kalakshetra Foundation celebrates her birthday by hosting an arts festival every year in February. This year, apart from the Rukmini Kalyanam (reviewed for Friday Review recently), the Kalakshetra Repertory staged ‘Sita Swayamvaram’ from their Ramayana series.

A rust-orange coloured backdrop with a doorway and a window on one side was a perfect foil for the costumes in warm tones of the dancers at the royal court of Ayodhya.

Story of Rama

The natya nadakam began with King Dasaratha and sage Vashishta witnessing a group of four court dancers (a bit of un-coordinated movements) regaling the audience and then the arrival of sage Vishwamitra. The story then moves on from the sage seeking the help of Rama and Lakshmana to vanquish the rakshasas, to the ashram and then finally to the court of King Janaka and Sita’s swayamvaram.

In the first half of this production, the focus was completely on Vishwamitra played by Prof. Janardhanan and it was his show all the way. From the time he gets up in anger in the court when Dasharatha refuses to send Rama, it was a continuous flow of exemplary abhinaya full of beautiful moments. It was amazing as the audience could actually see the wave of anger coursing through his body, which the dancer portrayed in a static position.

In the detailed depiction of the rituals in the ashram, the body language while showing the flora and fauna in the landscape, the soft touches bringing out the delicacy of the lotus, the pranks of the monkeys and expressing with just eye movements the agility of the deer, Janardhanan’s nuanced expressions glowed like a beacon of light, re-emphasising the value of commitment, sincerity and experience in an artist’s life.

The portrayal of the sancharis by the dancers in the roles of Rama and Lakshmana, depicting and dancing the same movements as Vishwamitra revealed the talent of the young dancers, but the contrast between youth and experience was vivid.

The latter half was a lengthy segment showing the exploits of the various contenders trying to break the bow. Ravana, attired in a Kathakali costume sitting with a bored expression, initially sprung to life while showing off his prowess. The role of Sita suited the young dancer, but while she danced holding a garland in her hands, shifting the garland from one hand to another during nritta hasthas was unaesthetic. The production had all the hallmarks associated with the institution, namely, good soulful music, competent dancing skills, good choreography and aesthetic costumes and sets.


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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 3:59:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/a-veteran-enthrals/article5839140.ece

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