Delightful footwork

IT IS not often that Kuchipudi takes centre-stage, especially when Bharatanatyam holds absolute sway. But now and then inroads are made by the few from Andhra Pradesh who resolutely practise this art form. One of them from the Vempati Chinna Satyam School provided a very absorbing evening on December 24 for the Nungambakkam Cultural Academy. "Sri Krishna Parijatham" was the absorbing dance-drama. Going along the lines of the famous Bhamakalapam that centers on Lord Krishna and his consorts, Satyabhama and Rukmini, "Sri Krishna Parijatham" began with the sutradhara introducing the dance drama, the story that is found in the Harivamsa Purana. Narada comes to Dwarka to ignite a quarrel between Satyabhama and Rukmini.

In a beige costume with the veena hung on the neck, Geeta Madhuri played Narada with great energy and the fast paced introduction gave way to Dwaraka, where Krishna visits Rukimini's garden. There she expresses her devotion to him and Narada enters. He gives Krishna the parijatha flower he gives it to her - knowing fully well that he will have to content with an irate Satyabhama. The whole scene, other than the fact that Krishna was coloured blue and Rukmini's costume clashed with the ugly banner on the stage and the plastic sheet that covers the small Ganesh on a stool in one corner of the stage, the dancing was truly inspiring. Their control over the footwork, which also saw their pair dancing with the feet settled on the rims of a brass plate and their gentle abhinaya was delightful.

The scene moves to Satyabhama's palace. Narada comes telling her that Rukmini is actually the beneficiary of a precious flower and Krishna's love! She is enraged, throws a fit and is angrily awaiting Krishna `who will pay for this.' Krishna comes to a stormy reception. After a prolonged attempt to pacify her he promises to bring her the parijatha tree if necessary. If there is a fiery, strong and self-willed woman it has to be Satyabhama and her dancing reflected these qualities. Her confidence in her movements and far from subtle expressions made one feel that this is one dancer who knows how good she is. In a bright red costume and a long plait that she flaunted the danseuse showed the assurance of a veteran. The interplay between the two dancers playing the characters was most interestingly done. Satyabhama (Prabha Ramesh) being the fierier dancer, her footwork was more assertive than the more passive Rukmini's, (Sri Vidya Vempati). Krishna, played by Neelima Raju, was a bit heavy footed but as the chastised one she was very effective. This is when Narada dancing most joyfully enters and laughs at Krishna's predicament being pulled in two directions. The finale was most dramatic satisfying the viewers who remained gripped throughout the close to two-hour programme. Some very inspired singing by the vocal support - Girish and Kanaka Durga - gave the proceedings much life and verve. The script is by Sri Bhujanga Raja Sarma set to music by P. Sangita Rao. Excellent nattuvarangam by Vempati Ravi Shankar gave the dancers the push for footwork that was smooth and attractive. On the veena was Sangita Rao, flute G. Nagarajan, Sikkil Babu on the violin and Phani Kumar on the mridangam.

It was a Friday and very appropriately Revathi Ramachandran presented Lakshmi Vaibhavam (choreographed and conceptualised by her) something she has specially worked on recently on December 27 at the Nungambakkam Cultural Academy. It was a work that saw her excel more as a teacher tan a dancer. She along with her extremely well trained students delineated the theme of how Aishwaryam is Goddess Lakshmi. And while Aishwaryam broadly denotes wealth it also means wealth of good health, knowledge, learning, strength, power or the eight facets of Aishwaryam through the Ashta Lakshmi. Even as the stage unfolded, the music began rather impressively through the mobile voice of Shashidharan. Strains of the violin and the beat of the mridangam heralded a charmingly attired Revathi in green and red. Light on her feet and accompanied by the robust vocals, the dance drama began with Lakshmi's Gayathri followed by the Pushpanjali in Raga Nalinakanti, tala Adi - a composition of Sitarama Sharma (violinist). A verse from Tirumular Tirumantiram in praise of Goddess Lakshmi and a Lakshmi sloka set to music by T.M. Tyagaraju in Hamirkalyani, in tala Rupaka describes the emergence of Lakshmi out of the ocean of Milk, a sequence very aesthetically done with a small Lakshmi (Manasvini Ramachandran) all done up in pink/green who danced with the poise and abandon of a veteran. Her pace was unhurried and confidence making the picture on stage very sweet. The dance of Lakshmi and Vishnu followed with all of them dancing in sync displaying striking images and obvious hours of practice and rehearsals. Even the Palkadal sequence was very nicely done, giving the dance drama its devotional feel. The main piece of the evening consisted of songs on Ashtalakshmi, a Ragamalika in talam Adi composed by Sitarama Sharma (violin). The aspects of Mahalakshmi, Gajalakshmi, Adi Lakshmi, Santhana Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Dhanya Lakshmi, Vijayalakshmi, Veeralakshmi came alive firm footwork and a description of each of the Lakshmi interspersed with a line from the Lakshmi Ashtakam, gave several moments of devotional fervour. In all these there was a story told and while abhinaya may not have been the best part, the entire piece was extremely well done. Eight girls, all in pleasing yellow and greens, literally filled the stage with colour, vibrancy and sense of worship - because the kolattam that they did was an eyeful what with their swaying and weaving patterns in twos and fours. While the singing evoked a feel of a bhajan, the piece also had young Manasivini in the middle forming attractive images on stage. "Ya devi sarve bhuteshu" - knowledge is gained by the grace of Vidya Lakshmi and the sloka in Chandrakauns, tala Rupaka was evocative sometimes giving the feel of an Odissi recital where the vocals play such an important part. A tillana with lyrics by Bharatiyar in praise of Goddess Lakshmi was sprightly and very pleasing to the eye. It was nice to hear the musicians get into the spirit of things and give such lively accompaniment. The recital ended with the portrayal of the Varalakshmi puja with elaboration of a Purandaradasa's Bhagyatha Lakshmi Baramma' and the Lakshmi Dhyana Slokam which had all the dancers on stage paying obeisance to the goddess seated on a lotus and blessing all her devotees. At the end one felt that had this production had more professional help in terms of lighting, sets and other accessories it would have been simply stunning. Providing excellent accompaniment were Sridharini on the nattuvangam, N.K. Kesavan on the mridangam and Kalaiarasan on the violin. Costumes by Jaya Venkatraman were in pleasing colours and the dancers were Shilpa Darshan Kumar, Sridharani, Divya. S. Ramya Badri, Aishwarya, Darshana, Pavithra and Swetha Subhiksha.

A brief halt at the Nungambakkam Cultural Academy on December 28 saw young Ramya Subramanian dancing with an enthusiasm that comes from youth.

Delightful footwork

A student of Revathi Ramachandran, Ramya performed the traditional items such as the Mallari (in Saurashtra, a Thyagaraja composition) Jathiswaram (in Malaya Marutam, Adi tala) with a fervour that is interesting to watch but then she has a long way to travel before she makes a definite impact with her dance.

While her hand movements are nicely done, she may need more time to improve her postures to get that special quality that puts apart dancers of excellence.

But since she is under a guru whose forte is training, she is bound to break out of the routine and go far. A pleasing countenance and good height makes Ramya a promising candidate for quality.


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