Fragments can convey feelings
Shijit Kumar as Vaali ... brilliant entrance. Pic. by K. Gajendran.
TO SEE the parts of a dance drama in isolation may offer a deeper insight into their structuring, and the intent of the choreographer. But can feelings be invoked by such fragments alone? The question was answered at Kalakshetra's lecdem (September 17) on ``Patra Pravesam" (entry of characters on the stage) in Rukmini Devi's choreography. Part of the year long birth centenary celebration of the pioneer artiste and institution builder, this unique event drew an audience of dance students, artistes, choreographers and dance gurus from many different schools. It was conducted by A. Janardhanan and chaired by Krishnaveni Lakshmanan, who had both played the lead in the Kalakshetra dance dramas for over 40 years. As performed on that day the selected fragments were not merely dry analyses of technique and form, but conveyed specific feelings in themselves. They fulfilled Janardhanan's assertion that Rukmini Devi maximised the possibilities of dance as expression, and expression through the dance; using angika abhinaya to reveal an emotional content far beyond what the song had to say. From the moment Jatayu appeared on the stage it was clear that for Rukmini Devi, all characters were vital and dynamic, whether human, demon, celestial or avian. The eagle's costume was simple and tasteful. The nritta incorporated the natural movements of birds. The magical effect of timing was apparent in the brilliant entrance of the monkey king Vaali (Shijit Kumar). He merely stamps his feet across the stage with the beginner's exercises (tattadavu). But reverberant drumming, offstage roars, suggestive costume, make up, and fearsome glance, all combine to create an aura of arrogant virility. This is further highlighted in contrast with wife Tara (Shaali), whose slow glides in naattadavu anticipate tragedy. The music (S. Rajaram) is a spontaneous complement to the bhava. Surpanakha and Ravana are siblings. But how different their natures despite the kinship! The demoness covers the whole stage with her fierce struts and mindless cruelty, accompanied by eerie dissonances in the vivadi raga. Kathakali movements make her larger than life. Dignity marks Ravana (Sheejit) in court, where his centrestage nritta is accompanied by dancers describing his might in abhinaya. The costumes accent red and black, but while Ravana is awesome, Surpanakha is savage.
Hanuman was greeted with applause even before his entry, a measure of regard for thespian Balagopal who has made the character his own. He achieved a perfect blend of vira (valour) and vinaya (humility) even in the cameo appearance. Most of the examples were from the Ramayana productions. But two vignettes from ``Andal'' and ``Rukmini Kalyanam'' highlighted women characters. Papanasam Sivan's ``Andal" paints the many moods of bhakti.
His Vachaspati and Navaroj rang in the hall and in the hearts of listeners. ``Patra Pravesam," however, was not as focussed or as varied in choice as an earlier lecdem on Rukmini Devi's group choreography. It could have replaced the group sequences with more character entries. But the show was informative. The musical support by Hariprasad (vocal), Jyolsna Menon (nattuvangam) Anil Kumar (mridangam), Srinivasan (violin) and Sashidhar (flute) had class and sukhabhava. If it did not rise to the challenges of the aggressive moments (as in the Vaali sequence), it did justice to everything else.
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