Dance season reviews
Some outstanding performances
“Don’t practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it, and knowledge, can raise man to the Divine.” Ludwig van Beethoven
Two Bharatanatyam performances of 2022 Margazhi season exemplified this quote – one is an upcoming and promising artist and the other a veteran whose persistent hard work and service to the art form has finally been recognised.
K. Sarveshan from Cape Town, South Africa, was awarded the Junior Fellowship from the Kalavahini Trust, an initiative of senior Bharatanatyam dancer Malavika Sarukkai. Any art form needs to be pursued with utmost dedication and discipline. The Kalavahini Trust identifies and recognises such talents by giving them a platform to present their creative ideas, guiding them from its conception to its presentation, a wonderful endeavour which deserves great appreciation.
For his performance (24 December) at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore, Sarveshan picked a unique concept from the Devi puranam - the story Kailasa Krishna - and presented it with finesse. Every part of the natyam, be it nritta or bhava, was executed with immense clarity of thought combined with comprehensive research. This alternate story of the origin of the Krishna Avataram, develops from an intimate moment in the lives of Siva and Parvathy, which leads Siva to marvel at the beauty and wonders of womanhood. The beauty of Parvathy, the grandeur of Siva and the interaction of these celestial beings were brought out in vivid detail, finally leading them to descend on Earth and become the eternal lovers Radha and Krishna. The transformation of Siva and Parvathy to Krishna and Radha was the highlight of this piece, set in ragamalika and Adi tala. Sarveshan’s attention to detail, along with his agility and expressions, kept the audience enthralled. On the whole, a dedicated and involved performance that deserves due credit and appreciation.
The next performance is by an artist who is synonymous to the above quote. G. Narendra, needs no introduction to the world of natya. I have always admired his natya, his thought process and his exceptional stage presence. His performance at Narada Gana Sabha on the 30 December 2022 was a remarkable piece of artistry. For his main piece, he performed the classic, the renowned Rama varnam in raga Karaharapriya composed by Thenmadam Narasimhachari and choreographed by the Dhananjayans. The nrityopaharam, as Dhananjayan Master always addressed these pieces, in the varnam format was rendered in great detail, lasting for more than 50 minutes. Each sanchari, from the description of Lord Rama to Manmatha’s arrogance being broken by looking at the sheer form of Rama, and finally the story of Valmiki, was elaborated with involvement and passion that one really felt being present in the vicinity of the Lord. The audience saw Lord Rama through the eyes of G. Narendra that day. Narendra moved on to render the popular Jagadhodharana, a piece performed by so many artists, but this rendition was truly matchless. The love and adoration of a mother towards her child, the vatsalya bhavam, was a showstopper. I came out of the auditorium overjoyed to have ended 2022 on an ecstatic note and relieved with the hope that Bharatanatyam as an art form will survive thanks to a handful of artists like G. Narendra. The irony is that such an artist has been allotted the 7 pm slot only this year and yet we call Chennai the birthplace of Bharatanatyam.
(A connoisseur of music and dance)
Another performance during the season that was noteworthy was the one by the dancing couple, Ashwathy and Srikant. Their performance took place at Narada Gana Sabha on 20 December 2022. Their opening presentation was an invocation, Pranavakaram, a composition of Oothukadu Venkata Kavi in the raga Arabhi. Their main piece was the famous Nata pancharatna kriti, Jagadhananda karaka. This was very well done. The couple co-ordinated beautifully, keeping the beauty of the composition intact without unnecessary deviations. This piece is normally done in the varnam format where elaborate jatis and teermanams are the order. But this performance had none of those; it was crisp and well executed. It was like a breath of fresh air with the audience wanting a bit more when the piece finished, something that is not always the case in the presentday scenario. This was followed by a solo padam performed by Srikant, Manadhai orumai padithi vai by Chidambaram Nataraja Dikshitar, a piece about a human’s attempt to control his mind, very well emoted by the dancer. Ashwathy next did the famous javali in Poorvikalyani, Nee matalei, a beautiful song, well performed. The performance concluded with the Kalinga Nartana tillana, performed by the pair. Overall a very beautiful show where all aspects of a dance presentation was present.