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The Padma magic lingers


"Age cannot wither her, no custom stale her infinite variety." Nothing best describes noted danseuse Dr. Padma Subramaniam better. And an appreciative audience, at the dance and music festival organised by the Sree Sankara School of Dance, Kalady, got a taste of that special magic which makes Padma Subramaniam so different from the rest of the crowd.

The festival which was held on the banks of the River Periyar, as part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakodi Peetom, brought together some of the best dancers and musicians of the land.

Padma Subramaniam performed the ballet `Jaya Jaya Sankara.' Based on the life and hymns of Adi Sankaracharya it was a solo of performance in the Banika style, composed, choreographed and rendered by the dancer herself.

Though it was in the Bharathanatyam style, Padma Subramaniam infused it with a special vibrancy by expanding the technique to the use of the whole body and using the once obsolete `karanas' in her repertory. It would be more apt to define the performance as being rendered in the `Bharatha Nirithyam' style as evolved by the dancer.

Suspension of disbelief is a pre-requisite to appreciate performing art. Yet, after watching Padma Subramaniam perform, disbelief would be the emotion to linger in all those who saw her perform that evening. Disbelief in the fact that it despite being a solo performance one felt the presence of so many vibrant characters on stage; disbelief in that dance is capable of lifting the viewer to such spiritual heights; disbelief that a mortal is capable of weaving such a magical spell.

The vignettes of her performance deserve special mention. The whole performance focussed on the main incidents and events in the life of Adi Sankaracharya. Padma Subramaniam presented the heartrending sequence in which the young Sankara seeks permission from is mother to take up `sanyas' poignantly. The mother's agony and Sankara's ecstasy were so emotively presented that the viewer was moved to a sympathetic response. Likewise, the `mataka' movements of Ganapathy, the serpentine `karanas' of Adishesha, the sea waves of Thiruchendur in `Taranga karana,' the Sree Rama bhakthi of Hanuman, the Krishna-Gopika interlude and the Adi Sankara- Chandala interlude were all memorable, unforgettable moments in .

Ordained by the 68th Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakodi Peetom, Padma Subramaniam is a staunch follower of Adi Sankaracharya's Advaitha movement. On being asked about her feelings on performing `Jaya Jaya Sankara' at Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Sankara, she said: "A blessing, the high point of 30 years of upasana."

It is not just technique or perfection that makes Padma Subramaniam's performances unique. Her total involvement, infusion of emotional depth into characters, the gamut of emotions that she presents with consummate ease and also a host of other qualities that defy definition. The love and awe that she inspires in her team can be best understood from the words of Dr. Gayatri Kannan, her vocalist. On being asked to describe her reactions to accompanying Padma Subramaniam, Gayatri replied, "Fulfilment, a result of my previous janma's tapasya."

V. P. Dhanajayan and Santha Danajayan also performed at the festival. The duo impressed, as always, with their rare brand of synchrony. The sheer pleasure that they seen to derive from dancing lends a special aura to their stage performances. They also presented two accomplished disciples, Pradeesh and Savitha Jagatheesan.

Pradeesh shows promise of growing into a noteworthy dancer in his own account. He manifests rare felicity of movement, impeccable sense of rhythm and a rare depth of emotive interpretation.

Special credit should be given to Prof. Peethambaran and Sudha Peethambaran of the Sree Sankara School of Dance and Music. The festival was organised in a most professional manner, the stage and facilities were of the highest order and what was most laudable was that admission was made free, thereby enabling great art to become accessible to those who could not afford to pay. It would have been truly memorable if only the audience were more disciplined and less voluble.

K. BALAKRISHNAN

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