Classical steps

Stamp of class: (clockwise from top left) Smitha Rajan, Prasanth Shah, Gopika Varma, Shila Mehta, Margi Sathi, Shobha Korambil,Urmila Satyanarayanan, Yasoda Thakore, Sreelatha Vinod and Aruna Mohanty.

Stamp of class: (clockwise from top left) Smitha Rajan, Prasanth Shah, Gopika Varma, Shila Mehta, Margi Sathi, Shobha Korambil,Urmila Satyanarayanan, Yasoda Thakore, Sreelatha Vinod and Aruna Mohanty.  


Mudra Fest featured 10 artistes and seven different styles of classical dance.

The annual Mudra Fest has a very intimate atmosphere to it.

The five-day fete at Vylloppilly Samskriti Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram, staged 10 artistes and seven styles of classical dance.


The festival opened with a Mohiniyattam performance by Smitha Rajan who presented the story of ‘Parvathi parinayam’ in an elaborate saptam, which is normally the seventh item in a Mohiniyattam concert. This Shiva Saptam in Neelambari ragam and Taalamalika, was composed by Smitha’s grandmother, the legendary Kalyanikutty Amma.

Gopika Varma was the artiste who put up another Mohiniyattam performance at the festival. Her main piece was the Swathi composition ‘Visweswar darshan kar’ in Sindhu Bhairavi. This piece reflected Gopika’s philosophical insights on life and death. Choreographed by her as a tribute to her late parents, the delineation depicted the birth-death cycle and also the story of the origin of the Ganga, the fluid movements creating a credible picture of the vibrant river.

The ashtapadi that Gopika presented was an abhinaya piece, giving a full-fledged exposition of the shringara rasa


Urmila Satyanarayanan, disciple of Dhandayudhapani Pillai and K.J. Sarasa, is a dancer with a strong stage presence. The focus of her recital was the varnam – a composition by Lalgudi Jayaraman in Charukesi, ‘Innum en manam ariyathavar pol’ on Lord Krishna. Normally the emotion depicted in the piece is bhakti or devotion, but Urmila chose to highlight the shringara aspect. Her sancharis based on the Gita Govindam expressed the sentiment of the respective ashtapadi, without the accompaniment of the words. Also unusual was the portryal of navarasas in the piece describing Lord Shiva’s form – his eyes reflect ‘raudram,’ the garland of skulls are ‘bhayanakam,’ evoking fear, the body smeared with ashes evoke bheebhatsam or contempt and so on.

Sreelatha Vinod’s Bharatanatyam performance was marked by the purity of her lines and movements and completeness of the repertoire.

Her Nrityopaharam or pada varnam in praise of Lord Muruga, ‘Velanai kaanvom’ in raga Kamas, had delineations that showed the birth of Devayani, Muruga’s wife, and the story of Avvaiyar, his devotee. It was rich in both nritta and nritya.

The Ninda sthuti on Shiva and the nrityangaharam or thillana in Amritavarshini were also pieces that stood out in the recital that bore the signature of Sreelatha’s gurus, the Dhananjayans.


Shila Mehta has performed several times in Kerala. A representative of the Lucknow Gharana, Shila combines in her the experience and talent of a choreographer and a performer. The Sawaal-jawab that she demonstrated as a jugalbandhi with the tabla went down well with the audience and also underscored the place of rhythm in Kathak.

Prasanth Shah’s style is marked by dynamism and precision. A student of Kumudini Lakhia, he performed ‘Aakaar’ (Shapes); he wove patterns of rhythm and displayed immaculate footwork.

Odissi and Kuchipudi

Odissi was represented by Aruna Mohanty and Kuchipudi by Shobha Korambil. Aruna is a proficient soloist, who exhibits a thorough understanding of the art form and a maturity in her subtle abhinaya. ‘Ardhanareeswara,’ choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and Sanjukta Panigrahi with music by Reghunath Panigrahi, highlighted her talents in abhinaya as well as pure dance. This had rigorous as well as soft elements to denote the male and female aspects of Lord Shiva as Ardhanareeswara, symbolising the completeness of the universe.

Shobha Korambil belongs to the new generation of Kuchipudi dancers. Her recital was based on the kacheri sampradayam and the main piece was tharangam, the piece de resistance of any Kuchipudi performance. A composition of Narayana Theertha, meant as an obeisance to Lord Shiva, proved Shobha’s mastery over rhythm. All the items featured were choreographed by the maestro Kishore Mosalikanti.

Vilasini Natyam

Vilasini Natyam, the ancient dance form of Andhra Pradesh would have passed into oblivion had it not been for the efforts of Kuchipudi danseuse Swapna Sundari. This dance is today performed by a handful of enthusiastic artistes like Yasoda Thakore. Her performance at the festival gave a look-over through the main items in the repertoire of Vilasini Natyam. The Salam Dharavu that Dr. Yasoda presented belonged to the aasthana sampradayam and was in praise of Lord Narasimha. Salam Dharavus with hints of Mughal influence are generally compositions describing gods and the qualities are attributed to the king. Dr. Yasoda succeeded in painting a clear picture of this rare dance form which lays emphasis on grace and beauty rather than stylized stances.

Margi Sathi chose to present day two of her ‘Sitayanam,’ a three-day Nangiarkoothu piece choreographed by her. The commentary on what is being enacted is an innovation by Margi Sathi and is meant for the benefit of the layman.

All in all, the Mudra Fest proved to be a rich and rewarding experience for the artistes as well as the audience.

Recommended for you