Seeing the Gita Govind in a range of dance styles was a treat.
Mesmerising: A scene from Anangotsava by the troupe of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan.
The legendary Jayadeva was a poet of rare acumen and inspiration. His magnum opus the Gita Govinda, the song of divine love between Radha and Krishna, has been a source of inspiration to painters, musicians and dancers alike. Its ashtapadis are sung in various musical styles from Hindustani classical to Carnatic, Odissi to Kerala's Sopanam, and are an integral part of abhinaya in every classical dance style.
The Odissi Academy organised Jayadev Utsav 2005 this past week at the India Habitat Centre, presenting choreographic compositions based on Gita Govinda in different classical dance styles.
The workshop at the Sahitya Akademi that preceded the festival was conducted by Dr. Subas Pani, who pointed out that the central character is Radha, a new consciousness that has emerged in Gita Govinda, which had never appeared earlier in the Bhagavad Puran or Raas Panchadhyayi. The substantial and meaningful deliberation of Dr. Neel Madhav Panigrahi underlined the musical aspect of Gita Govinda.
The dance festival started with Odissi dancer Sangeeta Das, one of the best representatives of the Deba Prasad style of Odissi. The inaugural dashavatar by Sangeeta was marked by her ease, grace and devotion, while the following ashtapadi, "Radhe Harimiha" contained intense abhinaya. Shovana Narayan came next with her vibrant Kathak. She danced Krishna Raas from Hindi poetry before presenting the ashtapadi in which Krishna pines for Radha, feeling guilty of hurting her.
Dashavatar was presented as group choreography by the troupe of innovative choreographer Saroja Vaidyanathan. The talented dancers brought out some eye-catching tableaux like the Narasimhavatar in Bharatanatyam style, which was an interesting contrast to the Odissi interpretation danced by Sangeeta earlier.
The festival concluded with a mesmerising Anangotsava, conceived by Subas Pani and presented in Odissi style, by the troupe of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, the gifted choreographer and guru who enacted the Sutradhar's role. A dozen polished male and female dancers and the sensitive choreography of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan were a visual treat. Even the music was bhav pradhan - following the emotion rather than the normal raga pradhan music that strictly follows the musical grammar. The orchestra comprised veena, venu, maddal and manjira, the typical Indian instruments, avoiding even a sitar or violin.
The spiritual and the erotic elements were beautifully merged in the poetic imagery of Subas Pani and the creative choreography of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan which included the Dashavatar and various ashtapadis. Other artistes included Bharati Shivaji and Kaushalya Reddy, who presented Mohiniattam and Kuchipudi respectively. It was a delight to savour Jayadev's poetry in so many styles of dance and music.
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