Solo in two styles
IF THE word Samanvaya (coming together) conjured up visions of a Jugalbandi with Bharatanatyam and Odissi in one frame, featuring dancers Alarmel Valli and Madhavi Mudgal, this was only marginally realised, for barring the start and the finish, the recital turned out to be the usual solo in two styles.
Pity for the ebullience of Valli and the very restrained artistry of Madhavi make for a natural contrast one highlighting the other - which the severe linear profile of Bharatanatyam and the bhangis of Odissi already emphasised. The homage to Prithvi built round Prithvi Suktam saw the two dancers intelligently use levels and stances similar and yet different, to portray the bounty of Earth and her cycles. In the expressional item ``Indendu Vaccitivira" in Surati, the khandita nayika interpretation saw the dancers, alternately- each in her own way, express the musical line. Wise, for two dancers simultaneously performing individualistic abhinaya can be distracting. While one in a pose with her back to the audience became a discreet presence - still part of the total canvas, the other occupied centre space. Valli's rendition of the varnam leading the audience through the poetic similes expressing the nayika's deep love for the Lord of Thanjavur radiating joy could do with less of the `ullasa nadai' which, for this critic, interferes with the formal architecture of the varnam. The pallavi in Khamaj delightfully sung by Manikuntala Bhowmick and Poornachandra Maji had an impeccable dance visualisation in Madhavi's grace and taut ardha Jhampa tala exactitude.
Yearning for the divine
A trimmer looking Lakshmi Viswanathan presented special abhinaya pinned on verses from Tayumanavar, Manikkavachakar, Appar, Gopala Krishna Bharati and Subbarama Iyer taking the viewer through multiple tones of yearning for the divine - as a companion with shared experiences, as a beloved and as a devotee. The dance gave imagery to largely abstract verses, which meant reading between the lines, the mood of the poetry conveyed with less of the word/gesture interpretation. Some of the pieces needed more leisurely treatment for an impact for even as the warm tones of the solo saxophone filled the air with its compulsive notes, the dancer appeared and disappeared in a flash. It is towards the latter half that the dancer seemed to really come into her own and the teasing laughter filled address to the Lord based on a Nondichindu, as well as the Subbarama Iyer composition ``Yenge Irundalum" in Kambodi and the finale of Tayumanavar verses with the dancer in a final pose raising her hands skywards in total surrender were very moving. Particularly evocative was dancing to silence - its stillness communicating beyond words.
Give her the germ of an idea and Malavika Sarukkai will embellish it with her poetic imagination spinning out a solo Bharatanatyam weave enveloping an entire recital. This time her theme was the evolution and flow of Bharatanatyam, enriched by successive streams of creativity moving through troughs and peaks of history and tradition. Built round S. V. Seshadri's lyrics with Sanskrit titles by D. Prashant, the story begins with Tirumoolar's Tirumandiram with Nataraja epitomising timeless movement of the Universe, his dance symbolising energised matter, the smallest atom. Despite the exuberant description of his matted locks, the item had a restless quality, the stillness in action of Nataraja not fully communicating. Perhaps less intrusive lighting would preserve the mystique of the scene. The order of the Universe and dance emerging as a sacred expression of temple ritual, while also manifesting itself in the different garb of sensuousness (`kama') in the dance of the Rajadasis in the court, were arrestingly brought out in Raseswari, the music in Latangi, Natakuranji and Bhairavi aptly conceived. The highpoint was while painting the horrors of war and injustice. History would not repeat itself, if man learnt lessons from it.
Uttara's lament before her cruelly slain husband Abhimanyu through an unjust war, and the adharma of Mahabharata are as relevant today.
Bharatanatyam, which has had its battles and revivals through new energies spells hope which here manifests in the story of Timakka whose barren womb finds fulfilment through nurturing trees. Evocative music in Karaharapriya had A.S.Murali and Bhagyalakshmi complementing each other. After the joy of the Brindavani Balamurali Tillana came the quietude of Prithvi Suktam.
A. S. Sikhamani's violin and the sensitive mridangam interventions by A. K. Ranganathan were of a piece with the rest of the musical support.
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