Accent on choreography
Several dancers, different styles — the two-day IDA affair showcased skill and imagination.
Photos: R. Shivaji Rao
GLIMPSES FROM Nritya Malika: Krishnakumari Narendran’s ‘Pradhosha Mahimai
IDA’s 21st edition, ‘Nritya Malika,’ showcased twelve groups of dancers over two days in association with Narada Gana Sabha. It was a potpourri of choreographies that ranged from the theatrical to the minimalistic, from the sophisti
cated to the simple. The focus was on choreography, because 18 minutes was all one got — a bit like one-day cricket where there is no time to build up or to warm up.
Right from when the curtain went up on the dot at 6.15 p.m. on the first day, Leela Sekhar, Chairperson, IDA, Revathi Ramachandran and Radhika Shurajit, Advisory Council members, took on the roles of master puppeteers controlling every move. Two doyens of the dance world, Guru Udupi Laxmi Narayan and Guru C.V.Chandrasekhar were felicitated by Mrs.Y.G.Parthasarathy in a delightfully short inaugural function that was timed to perfection.
The festival opened with a rather dramatic staging of ‘Pradosha Mahimai’ by the students of Guru Krishnakumari Narendran’s Abhinaya Natyalaya. The loud devotional music and the elaborate costuming left nothing to imagination, but the good co-ordination of the dancers, the hymns and the well researched content captured the auspiciousness of the occasion. As theatrical was Anita Guha’s new production ‘Chitrangada,’ a Bengali dance drama by Rabindranath Tagore. Premiered for IDA, it is the story of a Manipuri princess’s love for Arjuna. The Manipuri-Bengali flavour came through in the music, in the unusual black in the costumes and even in the sollus or bols accompanying the dance. The detailing was meticulous and the dancers proficient, but the ‘in your face’ presentation left no room for artistry.
Suave and contemporary
#8217; Mythili Prakash.
The find of the festival however was young dancer-choreographer, Mythili Prakash. In her suave and contemporary solo and group offerings, one could see the happy blend of Western stagecraft and Indian aesthetics. Not that she did anything new or untried; it was the packaging that caught one’s attention. The style quotient dominated in the solo ‘Surya’ based on the Aditya Hridayam and in the subsequent ‘Current’ that was a truly electrifying group number, the electronic music notwithstanding.
Not to be left out was veteran dancer-choreographer Professor C.V.Chandrasekhar with ‘Pancha Deva Stuti’ performed by professionals from the Nrityashree group. The master craftsman energised the stage with challenging gati changes, interesting movement patterns, and excellent imagery.
The simple sophistication worked despite the fact that the live orchestra was a let down with a not-in-tune Vanathi and a not-so-alert Adyar Balu.
Revathi Ramachandran is another dancer with a penchant for rhythm. Her ‘Laya Manjari’ was couched within a margam format with an alarippu, a Ganesha and a Saraswathi Vandana, a bhajan, a jatiswaram, a varnam and a mangalam - all in 18 minutes. It passed in the fast forward mode, as a blaze of rhythm with strains of familiar melodies that changed even as one tried to keep pace. In this ambitious adventure that was marked by azhutham and laya, there was only one objectionable part. And that was the mangalam in the third speed.
There were some dancers who preferred melody over arithmetic. In Radhika Shurajit’s ‘Konjum Salangai,’ it was the music, rather the clever conversion of Tamil film songs into classical dance compositions that was most interesting. One felt the choreographies could have been more creative and imaginative like the inspired theermanam that was performed on the diagonal.
Again it was Swati Tirunal’s bhajan in Pahadi, ‘Aaj aaye Shaam Mohan’ that held sway in Gopika Varma’s ‘Raas Leela.’ While the idea of Krishna’s maya over the gopis was a nice touch, the choreography as such had nothing remarkable about it. Another piece that could have been explored with more energy was Meenakshi Chittaranjan’s ‘Suryaya Namaha,’ especially Dikshitar’s navagraha kriti in Sourashtram, ‘Suryamurthe.’
The ‘solo * 4’ choreography model that many dancers use today is most unimaginative. The young group of dancers dressed in gorgeous costumes of amber and gold in a contemporary harem-pants style, came to life in the concluding segment with Dikshitar’s English notes. This was what they probably enjoy doing most — being part of an experiment.. This orchestra was particularly noteworthy.
‘Thrayee’ presented by S. Divyasena was guilty of the same kind of solo choreography transcribed onto a group, but dynamic movement patterns and the blending of two styles, Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, relieved the monotony.
In a capsule
Meenakshi Chittaranjan’s ‘Suryaya Namaha.’
Despite the absence of their teacher Srekala Bharath, her senior students presented ‘Annamayya Bhakthi Manjari,’ a capsule portraying different kinds of devotion through Annamacharya’s sankirtanas. They were a young, disciplined lot and the tableaux they created were credible. The pick of the lot was the Yamunakalyani-Khanda chapu ‘Bhavayami Gopalabalam’ featuring a mischievous Krishna with the lilting music adding depth to the tableaux.
Indumathi Ganesh was a last minute volunteer to fill in for Ananda Shankar Jayant. The ‘Shiva Tandava Sthothram’ was in a solo format, whereas the ‘Shiva Panchakshara Sthothram’ was presented with a group of four young and earnest dancers.
The choreographies of both were disappointingly straightforward, especially the latter that had the same ‘solo*4’ format.
Amidst the profusion of sounds and colours that mark Indian culture, was a small segment of Western contemporary dance from the students of Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania. It took a while to tune in to the stark landscape and to the disturbing scenarios they painted. The dancers in short, blue body suits and pink shift dresses used a vocabulary of movements that was modern, yet tinged with classical nuances.
While the solos ‘Unsolved Within’, ‘Affairs’ and ‘My Life’ were sombre solos, the last piece ‘Digital,’ a group choreography by Nola Nolen Holland, brought in some lighter moments and some happier memories.
IDA attempts to showcase talented dancers and promote better understanding among them. These are the ideals of the parent body in New York and one sees the same intent reflected in the Madras Council. ‘Nritya Malika’ was organised with professional zeal and no detail was too minor, including good anchorss in Brindha Das and Ramya Subramaniam, and traditional stage décor by the Mylapore Trio.
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