January Chronicles

The latter part of the season (in January 2024) witnessed several individual dance performances. A few of them I attended deserve mention both for their variety and for the age range of the artists, from highly seasoned performers to relatively fresh faces in the dance firmament of Chennai. Shobana Balachandra Shobana, one of the senior most disciple of the Dhanajayans, also serves as the Artistic Director of Bharata Kalanjali, an institution founded and nurtured by her gurus. Her performance took place on 5 January 2024 under the auspices of Brahma Gana Sabha at the TAG Auditorium. Her first item was a Muthuswami Dikshitar kriti popularised by G.N. Balasubramaniam, Swaminatha paripalaya in Nata raga.

This is an unusual item which does not generally form a part of the dance repertoire. Shobana efficiently handled this abstract theme. This was followed by a varnam of the Tanjore Quartet in navaragamalika. Her footwork, expressions, and energy on stage were impressive as she seamlessly combined all these aspects in her performance. Shobana presented A Soul’s Journey, a new addition to her repertoire. Penned by Prof. Raghuraman, Shobana traced the journey of a departed soul from the time of the funeral till the final arrival at an indeterminate place. The choreography was apt in that it affected the viewer, which led to introspection and unearthed memories of loved ones who have made this journey. Shobana concluded with a mangalam, a departure from the usual tillana, in keeping with the sombre mood of the last piece. Music was led by the mellifluous voice of Radha Badri and the orchestra.


Suryanarayan Murthy Murthy is another senior dance performer who has been active in the circuit for many years—a Kalakshetra alumni who later worked with the Dhananjayans’ Bharatha Kalanjali. He performed at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan this year on 8 January 2024 under the Bhavan’s dance festival series. He started with a tisra alarippu followed by the main piece, the varnam, composed by Raji Narayanan of Mumbai. The dance, choreographed by the Dhanajayans, is one of their highly acclaimed presentations. Murthy danced with energy, and his experience was evident in both the footwork and expressions. He performed the piece efficiently. He concluded with a Jayadeva’s Gita Govindam’s first ashtapadi, Pralayapa yothichale in ragamalika. Music was recorded and of good quality. Vocal by Srikant was good, with competent orchestral support.

Swati M. Kumar Swati is an upcoming dancer with a lot of promise. A disciple of Radhika Shurajit, Swati is also a singer and a teacher of Bharathanatyam and Carnatic music. Her performance was for Karthik Fine Arts conducted at the Narada Gana Sabha mini hall on 24 January 2024. She started with a mallari, an invocative number. This was followed by Shanmuga shabdam, choreographed by the Dhananjayans. Her central item was the varnam, in raga Athana, a composition of Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma. Her performance of this varnam was good, with clean footwork and expressions in the abhinaya portions. Her dancing was confident and energetic. A Surdas bhajan was next, depicting the pranks of baby Krishna, again well done by Swati. The conclusion was with a tillana in Kuntalavarali. Instead of the standard mangalam, Swati danced to verses from the Hanuman Chalisa in celebration of the consecration of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya