Visual treat of Sangam poetry
Captivating performance... Alarmel Valli.
BHARAT KALACHAR takes you back in time with the Sabha resembling an informal gathering rather than a formal stage setting. The practice of Mrs.Y. G. Parthasarathy personally thanking the performers has now become a sort of a ritual that adds to the homely atmosphere. That evening the Sabha boasted of a full house and an appreciative audience: can a dancer ask for more? Alarmel Valli was presenting verses from ancient Tamil Sangam Poetry in Dance that dates back 2000 years - a subject she has been researching for 12 years.
Elegant in blue and gold, Valli displayed a new facet of herself as a dancer without featuring her usual nritta pieces. Romance, misery, stoicism, and philosophy, so varied were the moods of the verses selected. The tone was also often reflected in the description of nature alongside. Some verses ended on a tantalising note, some skipped a sequence of events. The final well-knit presentation included sancharis that further underlined the themes. Subtlety of hidden metaphors, their fresh approach to love, and identification with the environment, all set Agam poetry apart. Verses quoted in addition to the existing explanations may have earned a better appreciation of the texts. The musical score by Prema Ramamurthy was rich and melodious with most pieces in ragamalika. The musicians were Latha Ramchand, vocal, C. K. Vasudevan, nattuvangam, Shakthivel Muruganandam, mridangam, and N. Srinivasan, flute. The star of the orchestra was undoubtedly the young violinist, Akkarai Subbalakshmi.
Most poignant was Unnuneer vikkinaan from the Kalithogai anthology about a young girl on the threshold of womanhood. Mistaking a handsome stranger's intimate gesture, she panics but in an instant recognition dawns. Embarrassed about having created a scene concerning her childhood friend, she assures her mother that the man had only choked on the water he was drinking. Well emoted otherwise, that crucial moment of recognition could have been better planned in terms of timing and stage planning. Sivaranjani raga rendered soulfully depicted the melancholy of a woman awaiting her lover, alone and lonely on a wet winter's night in ``Pirarum ketkunar ularkol," from Kurunthogai.
From the same compilation, Valli contrasted desolation with defiance where the heroine decides to stop pining for him. Whenever the abhinaya seemed literal, the dancer's expressiveness made up for it. Spontaneity and uninhibited responses also added to her charm.
On popular demand, though long past dinnertime, Valli performed a philosophical piece, ``Num magal numakkum angu anaiyale" in Ranjani and Hamsanandi from Kalithogai, about a mother whose daughter has eloped with a stranger. The bitterness and pain of the mother was palpable. Her reflections regarding the daughter's secret liaison and deceit, were handled with feeling.
Valli finished with an energetic Swaralaya in ragam Vasantha, talam Adi. The nritta-based item interwoven with a verse from Purananooru, gave a glimpse of the Valli that we are all familiar with. She was able to hold the audience attention for over two hours. Therein lies her appeal.
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