Return to the roots
In the aesthetic ambience of the Thennangur Panduranga temple, dancers found fresh interpretations.
RESOURCE PERSONS: (From left) Prof. C. V. Chandrasekhar, Vedavalli, Krishnaswami, Leela Samson, N. S. Jayalakshmi and Rhadha.
The famous Panduranga temple in Thennangur, a village situated about 110 km from Chennai in Tiruvannamalai district, became the venue for the three day workshop conducted by Natyarangam, dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha. A group consisting of dancers, students (quite a few of them foreigners), gurus and musicians made the annual affair of the unit useful and interesting. Gurus included Prof. C. V. Chandrasekhar, Rhadha, Ambica Buch, Leela Samson and R. Vedavalli and N. S. Jayalakshmi. R. Krishnaswami, secretary, Narada Gana Sabha, was the perfect host seeing to it that everyone was comfortable.
This programme is being conducted for the past seven years. The aim of the workshop is not to teach dance compositions but to enable the dancer to comprehend the system and experience the joy of learning and dancing within the precincts of a temple, thereby taking the art back to its roots.
The sessions at the three-day Natya Sangraham camp were based on angika or body movements, vachika, the words or poetry or song that goes along with the movement, satvika or the emotive element and expression of feelings or bhava through dance, and aharya, the background as well as costume, jewellery and make-up.
Leela Samson, who has experimented and researched on certain movements and exercises that are useful for a dancer shared her experience with the youngsters. "Dancers tend to use their ankles a lot," she said and showed some movements to exercise the ankles. She taught the participants some warm-up exercises that she has used with good effect. Leela Samson also spoke of taste and elegance in designing dance costumes.
C. V. Chandrasekhar devoted the morning session to teach young aspirants how to dance to different musical forms, different situations and moods. In the evening, he danced with the students at the Panduranga temple with devotional fervour. The fibreglass murals and sculptures by artist `Natanam,' on the walls and ceiling, made an attractive background. The students danced to the Mallari played on the nagaswaram, as the deity was taken in a procession round the streets.
Rhadha showed the satvika elements and danced to the famous padam in Begada `Yarukagilum bhayama' rendered by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan. The facial expressions were rich in bhava. M. R. Rangarajan's modern Tamil verse, translated impromptu by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, was well-portrayed.
The session on `Varanamayiram,' a piece from Sri Andal's Nachiyar Tirumozhi, which is traditionally sung at weddings, was quite interesting. While Vedavalli rendered the piece tuned by her, Sujatha Vijayaraghavan explained the meaning of the ceremonies involved in a wedding and the dancers enacted the whole thing. Ambika Buch, who had assisted Rukmini Devi for years and has taken care of the costumes for Kalakshetra productions, was another resource person. She drew attention to the fact that often banners of the sabhas are at a level that distract the attention of the viewer and block the hand movements of the dancer, she observed.
Mangai of Stella Maris College, who has done a lot of research on Terukoothu, introduced a group from Uttara Merur with Usha Rani as the lead performer in `Sikhandi.' It was typical street theatre. No mike was used. The step-by-step change in the aharya (costume, jewellery and make-up) devised by Usha Rani, done entirely on stage, as she transformed from Sikhandi to Amba, was quite a revelation to the dancers.
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