A feast for Delhi dance lovers




Recitals of the week before highlighted how art, transmitted through the guru/shishya method of passing on the baton to a new generation, has few equals. At the Stein auditorium under Habitat's HCL Concert Series, was Sujata Mohapatra's Odissi recital, epitomising in every detail the dance as visualised by her father-in-law/guru, the late Kelucharan Mohapatra. With talents honed for 18 years under the guru, the immaculate dance contours of Sujata's Odissi, particularly the measured perfection and grace of the torso isolations, the hallmark of the guru's style, are well known. But it is in the intense nature of her interpretative dance that one sees Sujata's growth in the last three to four years. Saleh Beg's "Ahe Neela Saila" with the interwoven Gajendra-moksha, Draupadi vastraapaharana and Prahalada/Narasimha avatara narratives and "Braja-ku Chora" wherein foster mother Yashoda through animated storytelling is trying to put the recalcitrant little Krishna to sleep, in their communicative urgency were quintessential Kelucharan Mohapatra. As for Ardhanariswara, after Sanjukta Panigrahi for whom the item was composed in 1977 with music by Raghunath Panigrahi, rarely has this critic seen the complementing Siva/Parvati contrasts captured with such grace and power. The recital rested purely on the dancer's merit, for barring vocalist Vijaykumar Jena the lacklustre musical support had a weak manjira player (except for a brief spell when dancer Madhavi Mudgal deputised), a sitarist who judging from his Charukesi raga alapana in mangalacharan was not from the top drawer and even Ratikant Mohapatra whose mardala was not at his inspired best with his ukkutas too soft to be heard.

In the best traditions of passing on the baton was the two-day festival for young artistes mounted by Asavari at the Habitat. Three years ago, dancer Shovana Narayan along with tabla maestro Shafaat Ahmed Khan decided on an annual platform solely for talented aspirants under the aegis of Asavari started in the late 1970s under the leadership of the late Lalita Narayan, Shovana's mother. Many performer/teachers train students but few display the selflessness of Shovana Narayan in offering a readymade solo platform for talented disciples, thus helping the yet unknown dancer in a crucial area. The festival was held amidst a poignant undercurrent of the presence in absentia of one of its main kartas, Shafaat Ahmed Khan, whose sudden demise has made the art world poorer.

Announcing in no uncertain terms a potential `star on the horizon' was Atreyee Roy. Clarity and punch in footwork and ability to change rhythmic accents apart, Atreyee has a sense of style, sported by mature dancers. Whether a ladi or a Dha Ta Ka Thunga bandish, here was a natural. The less than immaculate freezing in an otherwise beautifully executed "Dhakita Dhakita Kidatakita" bandish and the slip in a jawab-sawal interaction with tablist Shakeel Ahmed Khan could not detract from the sparkle right from the Indra-stuti start in Chautal. The thumri in Mishra Pilu "Parana lagi sakhi saawan ki phuhar" melodiously sung by Indra Prakash Trivedi, in portraying the nayika in the monsoons, despite the dancer's emotive vivacity needed more internalised silence and the stopping of constant opening and closing of lips. Her slim vivacity can do without the over abundance of jewellery draped round neck and waist.

The festival's excellent artiste selection had further proof in Aditi Rao, a disciple of Leela Samson, whose Bharatanatyam in savoured vilambit laya revealed rare maturity in not being seduced by heady speed. If jatiswaram was slow spun, even the Paras tillana in the mei adavus and korvais was statuesque rather than rhythmically breezy.

The best of Aditi came in visualising the haunting ache of lonely Radha plagued by the picture of Krishna sporting with other gopis in the ashtapadi "Rase Harimiha vihita vilasam" and the Meera bhajan in Megh "Barse badariyan saawan ki", each falling drop of rain becoming a felt experience in abhinaya. Singer Vasanti Rao's clarity of diction in classical melody is unique.

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