Numbers and a few more dances
The countdown to zero ended in a lift-off.
She left enough space for her flowing movements in Odissi, with grace and precision. Sonal compared this nothingness to the metaphysical space
Photos: K. Ramesh Babu, G. Krishnaswamy and Nagara Gopal
Countdown to zero (clockwise from left) Padma Subrahmanium, Raja and Radha Reddy, Sonal Mansingh and Rajashree Shirke.
As the countdown of the numbers from ten to zero continued, it became puzzling as to which would be the most difficult subject for these artistes that they would finally be able to evolve their dance art suiting that particular number. This was a real test for their choreography skills as the event was basically meant for that. The Shadrutu (six seasons) was the subject that Swapna Sundari chose for the given number ‘Six’. She is credited with researching and developing ancient dances practiced by devadasis and grouped them under the name Vilasini Natyam. She applied this style of presentation, besides Kuchipudi to this format, choosing compositions from different languages like a Telugu lyric of Vanamamalai Varadacharyulu for Varsha Rutu, a Hindi song for Hemant Rutu, Kalidasa’s Sanskrit lyric for Sisir Rutu and Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah’s Deccani lyric for Vasant Rutu and so on. The pictorial projection in the background comprised her expressive face, besides photographs of expressionist paintings. The presentation was backed by pre-recorded voices of Swapna and a baritone male voice. The commentary was in English. Swapna’s rendition of songs was enjoyable. Prabhu Dutta played a supporting role. The effort was in the direction of describing that atmosphere that prevails during each season.
The figure ‘Five’ brings to the mind the word ‘Panchabhoothas’ (Five Elements). Bharatanatyam artiste Anita Ratnam chose this theme and presented it, backed by a live orchestra. Two of her male disciples were also on the stage along with her. They seemed to have been well trained in acrobatics – particularly in the art of using a cloth hung to the ceiling and constantly climbing up and sliding down or, at times, settling themselves in squatting posture stuck to this hanging cloth. Drawing on her experience as a Bharatanatyam dancer and theatre actor, Anita was abstract in conveying her theme. The dance element could be felt only in the continuously heard ‘sollukattu’ of jatis with variation, maintaining rhythmic cycles. The musical element included raga renditions. Gymnastics and a sword fight between these two young men dominated. It was more a surrealistic drama.
Kathak dancer Rajashree Shirke chose to present a theme on the ‘Four Vedas’ for the given number four. She explained the importance of Vedas and then went for depiction of some scenes from Mahabharata, which is also otherwise known as ‘Panchama Veda’. The sequences from ‘Virata Parvam’ and the Bhagavadgita were the dominant parts of the subject. The shadow play and stage craft were imaginatively used.
In Chhau dance the faces remain covered with masks and the bhava is expressed through body language and to the supportive music in Hindustani. On this occasion trimurti – Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara was the subject that the choreographer Shashidhar Acharya chose to present representing the number three. The main artistes dressed and wearing masks of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswarastood on a raised pedestal as if watching the acrobatics. A man standing behind each of the gods added his two hands to render the God as having four hands.
Raja Reddy and Radha came out with a theme woven around the ‘Two’. They chose the theme of Radha and Krishna, whom Raja Reddy compared to ‘Prakriti and ‘Purusha’. The Bhagavata concept was projected as Madhura Bhakti. Jayadeva’s works like Rasaleela, Radha Krishna Samyogam and the Union of ‘Prakruthi’ with its creator ‘Purusha’ formed the theme that Raja Reddy also explained in his address, followed by a presentation. The choreographic effort could be seen in all dances the duo presented. The Tandava and Laysa forms of dance also brought some colour to the drama, adapting the Kuchipudi tradition of dance.
Padma Subrahmanyam chose the ‘Advaita’ philosophy as her theme to represent the number ‘One’. Padma Subrahmanyam’s show had works of Adi Sankaracharya like ‘Siva Manasa Pooja Stotram’, ‘Dakshinamurthy Stotram’, ‘Bhaja Govindam’ and a part of ‘Viveka Choodamani’ as the theme. And the dominant presentation was an episode of Sankaracharya confronting Lord Siva, in the form of a Sudra. The final piece was the presentation of Annamacharya’s famous kirtana Brahma Mokkate which drew a thunderous applause.
“Poornamadah Poornamidam, Poornath Poornagachate
Poornascha Poornamadaya Poornameva Aathishyate" is a line from ancient texts that explains the power of zero comparing it to infinity. Sonal took the same sloka and tried to evolve it to depict how powerful was ‘Shoonya’. Then she linked this theme to the Jain and Buddhist scriptures. She also related this to the evolution of modern science and technology. She left enough space for her flowing movements in Odissi, with grace and precision. Sonal compared this nothingness to the metaphysical space too. She was supported by a backdrop projection on a small screen depicting concentric circles changing forms.
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