Vidhya Subramanian, senior student of stalwarts guru Swamimalai Rajarathinam Pillai and guru Kalanidhi Narayanan, has always been an impressive Bharatanatyam dancer. She presented her recital at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. Her trademark technique was an ultra-feminine lasya style that she carried with dignity and depth. But now there is more - a new maturity and confidence, as the graceful performer turns into a thinking dancer whose presentations reflect a clear flow of thought and new ideas.
At the most obvious level, her rounded adavus have given way to a more angular and expansive vocabulary. Perhaps a few jatis have less seated steps, but the overall picture is still stylish as the steps
reflect excellent timing, agility and strong footwork. There was one unsolved puzzle - in the frequently used Kulukku nadai or the dancer’s walk. More than their effectiveness, their complicated trajectory with
perpendiculars, semicircles, horizontal lines, diagonals and circles, and combinations of each in every sequence gave room for thought. Was there a point somewhere that went beyond the sollu kattus?
There were no shades of grey in Vidhya's portrayals. The heroine, in the Khambodi varnam, ‘Naathanai Azhaithu Vaa’ (Adi, T. S. Kalyanasundaram Pillai), is in love with Muruga. She is so absorbed with him, that she sees his reflection in a pool of water and admiring it, she almost falls into the water! Suffering the pain of separation, she compares herself to a lotus bud struggling to bloom or like a bird struggling to fly. The ideas were almost trivial, and yet so revealing.
The best came in the Ghanam Iyer padam, ‘Unnai Thoodanuppinen’ (Saveri, Adi) which speaks of a friend’s betrayal. The nayika eagerly opens the door on her friend’s return, when she suddenly notices the
friend’s dishevelled state. The eager anticipation when she looks behind the friend expecting to see the loved one, the slow realisation of what might have happened between her friend and the paramour, the
self-flagellation, and finally full blown anger was simply a masterpiece delineation, conveyed with a natural flow as a step-by-step escalation of distress and a predominance of netra abhinaya.
Guru Kalanidhi’s choreography of ‘Chikkavane’ (ragamalika, Adi, Purandaradasa) in which the gopis get together to compare notes about Krishna’s embarrassing pranks, also used an interesting technique of
describing the same incident from both sides- Krishna and the gopi, in this case.
That Vidhya chose the Kuntalavarali tillana (Adi, Balamuralikrishna) underlined her confidence in laya. Mridangam player Shakthivel Muruganandam, nattuvanar Venkatakrishnan and the dancer
synchronised perfectly in the jugalbandi sequence in the charanam section. The nattuvanar is one of the best of the younger crop and his guidance was invaluable on the orchestral dais. While the mridangam player lent his support for the dancer, the attentive violinist (Eshwar Ramakrishnan) and melodious vocalist (Shweta Sriram) coordinated well, though the latter did have some challenging moments.