Music Academy Dance Festival - A few highlights


Sumitra Subramaniam began her performance with the invocatory pushpanjali in khanda Chapu and Gaula raga. Her graceful entrance set the stage for the evening’s narrative, invoking the divine presence. The varnam, Sarasijakshudu by the Tanjore Quartet in Kalyani and Roopaka tala, portrayed a maiden’s love for Rajagopalaswami of Mannargudi. Sumitra’s performance skilfully portrayed a story of love, devotion, and yearning. Her detailed abhinaya showed her understanding of the composition, smoothly navigating the rhythmic complexities and emotional aspects of the varnam. In the Kshetrayya padam Kodi koosen aiyyayo, the protagonist vents frustration at a rooster disrupting her romantic endeavours. Sumitra portrayed the character’s emotions, moving convincingly between anger and thoughtful reflection. This performance stands out as the highlight, demonstrating Sumitra’s versatility in conveying a range of emotions through the playful and intense scenes in the padam. The tillana in raga Purvi, a composition of Tirugokarnam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar served as the grand finale. Throughout the performance, Sumitra’s synergy with the live orchestra was evident. The musicians added depth and resonance to Sumitra’s movements. Jayanthi Subramaniam, Sumithra’s mother and guru, accompanied her on the nattuvangam. On the vocals was Radha Badri, mridangam by Nellai D Kannan, Kalaiarasan (violin) and Shruti Sagar (flute).

Christopher Guruswamy captured the attention of both seasoned and young enthusiasts of classical dance at the Music Academy. With a stage presence that commanded the attention of the audience, Christopher, a disciple of Leela Samson, has carved a niche for himself. The performance commenced with a Charukesi varnam, a classic selection highlighting his technical finesse in leaps and swirls. His precise adavus vividly portrayed the dedication evident in his energetic rendition. Utplavanas and bhramaris added artistic embellishments. The performance took an evocative turn with the rendition of Idai vida innum a padam in raga Saveri and Roopaka tala by Subbarama Iyer. A composition portraying the Khandita nayika, a woman scorned and angered by the infidelity of her beloved, Christopher attempted to portray the conflicting emotions of love, betrayal, and righteous anger. The nayika discovers marks on her lover’s body, evidence of his dalliance with another. This piece also gives scope to depict the reactions of the man that adds humour to an otherwise serious padam. The Purvi tillana, set to a lively and rhythmic composition, saw Christiopher’s technical brilliance come to the forefront. It reflected his rigorous training and commitment to the art form. Christopher was accompanied by Sudarshini Iyer (nattuvangam), Mithun Madhusoodanan (vocal), Sayee Rakshit (violin) and Shiva Prasad (mridangam). The dynamic interplay between the dancer, the musicians, and the audience created an electric atmosphere, culminating in a resounding applause that echoed through the halls of the Music Academy. 


Medha Hari’s Bharatanatyam performance at the Music Academy featured a diverse repertoire, demonstrating her technical skill and ability to bring compositions to life, leaving a memorable impact on the audience. Currently mentored by Priyadarsini Govind, Medha has been a disciple of Anitha Guha for several years. The performance opened with Bhogeendra Shayeenam in Kuntalavarali and moved onto the timeless C h a r u k e s i varnam composed by the legendary Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. Medha, with her commanding stage presence, effortlessly navigated through the layers of the raga. She then shifted the mood with Hey ramba, a padam tuned by Rajkumar Bharathi, a composition that marries tradition with a contemporary flair. Her expressive storytelling of Muruga and Ganesa fighting with each other as Parvati tries to resolve, was enterprising. Medha’s ability to synchronise her movements with the live music created a symbiotic relationship, elevating the performance. Jatis were by Jayashree Ramanathan, vocal by Sathish Venkatesh, and mridangam by Sakthivel Muruganandam. The crescendo of the evening unfolded with the rendition of tillana in Poorvi composed by Vaidyanathar Bhagavatar.

Meera Sreenarayanan’s performance depicted a nayika immersed in love for Muruga, making it an engaging journey. Mallaris over the past few decades have travelled from the temple to the stage. But quite seldom does the stage reverberate with the sounds of the tavil and nadaswaram in a Bharatanatyam recital. This gave a brilliant start to the presentation. Set in Gambheera Nata and Roopakam, the mallari sollukattus composed by Charudutt V. V. served as an auspicious opening to the recital. The varnam that followed, composed by Kunnakudi Venkatarama Iyer and choreographed by Indira Kadambi, was set in the melodious raga Kapi and Adi tala. Meera effortlessly executed the piece with finesse. The transition to the padam, Pranananathan enike (Kambhoji) set to the composition of Irayimman Thambi was well rendered at a slow pace. The javali – Janatanamu maatalu portraying a khandita nayika, featured music composition by Bijeesh Krishna. Set in raga Sourashtram and tala misra Chapu, the anger and sarcasm of the nayika was in total contrast to the virahotkhandita in the varnam. Both were choreographed by Meera Sreenarayanan. The tillana, set in Simhendramadhyamam and chaturasra Matyam, a composition and choreography of Prof. C. V. Chandrashekhar, marked the culmination of the dance recital. The ensemble, featuring Indira Kadambi on nattuvangam, Bijeesh Krishna on vocal, Charudutt V. V. on mridangam, N. Anantha Narayanan on veena, Easwar Ramakrishnan on violin, Mylai Karthikeyan on nagaswaram, and Adyar G. Silambarasan on tavil, played a pivotal role in enhancing the overall experience. The narration script by Ashwathy P. G. added a layer of storytelling to Meera’s solo thematic Bharatanatyam recital.

Sudharma Vaithiyanathan, commenced her recital with the traditional jathiswaram set to raga Rasali and composed by Madurai N. Krishnan. Jathiswaram is a nritta based composition that is not seen frequently in recitals today because of its staminatesting nature. But Sudharma boldly took it up as her opening number. Sudharma’s execution of complicated rhythmic patterns and precise footwork displayed her prowess and practice. Sudharma moved on to Andal varnam in ragamalika, choreographed by G. Vijayaraghavan. The narrative of the varnam, intertwined with expressive abhinaya, was executed with finesse. Javali, Idhene Sakhi by Venkatadri Shyama Rao, brought a delightful contrast with its hope and anticipation of the nayika who awaits her beloved. Smitten by his features, she feels disappointed that he does not come to see her. The crescendo of the evening came with the vibrant moves of the tillana in Sankaranabharanam by Ponniah Pillai. Nattuvangam by A. Lakshman, her teacher, provided a stellar support. K. Hariprasad’s soulful vocal, Nellai D. Kannan’s mridangam, Easwar Ramakrishnan’s violin, and the flute accompaniment by Muthu Kumar, collectively elevated the performance to a sublime artistic experience. (The author is a researcher and a teacher)