Friday Review

Pegged on women

Arunima Kumar. Photo: M. Moorthy

Arunima Kumar. Photo: M. Moorthy  

‘Swaroopa’ by Arunima Kumar explored women-centric motifs through a presentation based on the Kuchipudi style. In a thought-provoking dance performance, Arunima first established the framework of traditional Kuchipudi repertoire and later adjoined it with a contemporary expression of disadvantaged women’s plight.

Arunima, is a senior disciple of veterans Jaya Rama Rao and Vanashree Rao, and has also trained under dancer Swapnasundari. She has performed extensively at prestigious venues in different countries over the world and is the artistic director of her dance company – AKDC (Arunima Kumar Dance Company) based in London and New Delhi. She is actively involved in dance therapy and community projects - arts activities for underprivileged children and women in prisons.

Arunima opened her recital with a lyric in ragam Durga and Adi talam, which was dedicated to the goddess as the Supreme Mother. Voluptuous movements that are characteristic of the Kuchipudi style, fast paced beats and small patterns of rhythm inbuilt in the composition conveyed a brisk quality that was full of life.

An Abhisarika nayika or one who goes in search of her lover was a picturesque portrayal for ‘Sakhi Hey, ’ the Jayadeva Ashtapadi set in Peelu ragam and Misra chapu. Arunima had donned a blue veil and carried a little candle in the palm of her hand to symbolise Radha’s tryst with Krishna in the darkness of the night. The dance composition was framed with abundant potential where the initial trepidation and the element of secrecy were imaginatively represented by the dancer with several nuances. Arunima’s furtive glances and tiptoed movements portrayed the story colourfully. Amidst this pleasantness the tiny tea light or candle stood out as an incongruity. Some thought could have been given to select an appropriate light in terms of size and type, which would match the Ashtapadi’s depiction.

‘Kaali’ in Revati ragam and diverse beats was a thunderous number that symbolised the destructive power. If the intention was to whip up energy, it succeeded but there were also occasions where the high decibel actions jarred against the artistic nature of the rest of the performance. However, the display on the brass plate that followed was skilfully done and matched every beat accurately.

R. Kesavan’s nattuvangam, Roshni Ganesh’s singing, Ganesh’s violin play, Sashidhar’s flute, Ramashankar Babu’s mridangam beats supported the dancer ably.

Arunima’s Kuchipudi was highly emotive and her torso movements were graceful, but some leaps were done with a stiff- kneed action that tugged at the rhythmic cycles. This was more obvious in the faster speeds where the dancer had to complete a little jump and then catch the tari kita thom finishes. Her body language was fluid with the proficiency to convey variations in energy and mood effectively.

The concluding number of the performance was titled Bandhini. With inputs from Chitra Sundaram, Smt Ramnath and Anita Ratnam this sounded promising. Combining basic Kuchipudi abhinaya with contemporary overtones, Arunima enacted the mental agony suffered by a woman prisoner articulately. Although introduced as a work in progress, the presentation carried substance where the work could be appreciated for its uniqueness. Specifically, the closing section where the woman stretched out her hand behind the invisible bars was compellingly suggestive of her caged life. Looking past the additives of special light effects to denote the prison bars, poetic voice-overs in Hindi and English and special composition, Arunima’s empathy carried the day. Here was an example of a dancer using the underpinning of classical skill sets to relate to a real life situation seamlessly. Bandhini was a case for enterprising dancers to respond to current events in life by drawing upon the essence of tradition sensitively.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 6:35:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/pegged-on-women/article6834309.ece

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