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Feats of grace

G.S. PAUL

Japanese Mohiniyattam artiste Keiko Okano's recital stood out for her artistry and her demonstration of the ingenious techniques of her guru Nirmala Panicker.



Keen sense of space and symmetry: Keiko Okano.

Among Asians, the Japanese stand out for their irresistible passion for learning the classical art forms of Kerala such as Kathakali, Koodiyattam, and Mohiniyattam over the past years. Perhaps the latest addition to this genre of dancers is Keiko Okano who has been enamoured with Mohiniyattam. A disciple of Nirmala Panicker of Natanakaisiki, Irinjalakuda, Keiko staged a two-hour recital, as part of the ‘Ranga parichaya' programmes of the institution.

Attractive mudras

Her laudable artistry apart, Keiko's recital was also a demonstration of the ingenious techniques of her guru. The first three numbers including Ganesha Stuthi, Cholkettu and Jatiswaram served to highlight the heights to which Keiko could carry suddha nritta. Choreographed in the conventional pattern with invocation to the Goddess and Lord Siva, it embraced Hamsadwani, Revathi and Vasantha ragas for the specially composed sahithya. Jatiswaram was in the typical traditional format in Hamsadwani and Misra chapu tala. As for the nritta part, Keiko exhibited an acute sense of rhythm. Mudras were well formed and attractive.

It was evident that the next three compositions were aimed at initiating the dancer to simple feats of abhinaya. ‘Nrittamaadu Krishna' in Jonpuri and Misra chapu described how the gopikas were provoking Krishna to dance by offering him butter. Keiko could effectively portray the playful antics of Krishna and his dance. ‘Sasijadala nayana Krishna,' Nirmala's own composition in Suruti and Adi, was also based on Krishna. The ‘mayilattam' (peacock dance) and ‘Kaliyamardana' were impressive. The ferocity of Kaaliya, the serpent, was reflected brilliantly in Keiko's eyes. ‘Nrithyati, nrithyati,' the Swati kirtana in Sankarabharanam and Adi, was on Siva's dance.

Awareness of space and a keen sense of symmetry in movements were discernible in the tillana in Kapi, Adi tala. Keiko concluded her recital with ‘Poli,' a feat of Mohiniyattam that was revived by Nirmala.

Keiko was a student of ballet in her childhood. But she was initiated into Mohiniyattam by Japanese dancer Hiromi Maruhashi who had undergone training in Kerala with several teachers including Nirmala.

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