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Ancient tradition back to Margam
- Jyothi Raghuram
Photos courtesy: Anuradha Vikranth

January 5, 2022

How did Nrityarang, with just eight dancers in 2001, transform into the mega Drishti National Dance Festival in just four years? A festival that attracted an overflowing audience right from its inaugural show - a feat beyond compare! Juxtapose this against the reality of the paucity of audience for dance recitals, and one understands the kind of planning and imagination that went into the making of the festival.

Anuradha Vikranth
Anuradha Vikranth

Thirst for knowledge and an inquiry into the past, delving into the ancient history of dance and the subsequent practice and metamorphosis of the art over centuries, comprise the foundational strength of well-known dancer Anuradha Vikranth. One has always marveled at what dance has to offer, right from grace and a sense of aesthetics, to simplicity and awareness of universal consciousness, provided the dancer has it in her/him to imbibe from it.

Warm hearted, enthusiastic and unpretentious - the hallmarks of Anuradha's personality - and her individual growth as an artiste, have come together for common good. Drishti Art Centre is as much a meeting place for hearts as it is for the pursuit of art in entirety. The Drishti community, with its family of dancers and musicians, is an intimate group that acts also as a support system, as evidenced during the pandemic. Reaching out to the financially distressed was a satisfying part of its art credo then.

One of those rare dancers who has used her learning and skills for the larger interest of the art, Anuradha's explorations have helped develop her institute into a pulsating centre where dance reinvents itself based on ancient traditions. One such commendable outcome has been her creative dance productions, steeped in tradition, both conceptually and in presentation. This is Anuradha's strength and achievement, both as a performer and teacher. One would say the art is vibrant and rooted in her hands.

Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam with Anuradha
Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam with Anuradha

Essentially, Anuradha seems to be a seeker. Her post-graduation from Sastra University, Tamil Nadu, was not just for an academic qualification. Her quest turned formally into a researcher on dance. Anuradha found herself at the doorstep of the prima donna of Indian classical dance, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, for in-depth training in Karanas and the principal aspects of the Natyashastra.

One of the research papers presented by Anuradha at Chennai last year -- Angika Abhinaya as seen in Guru Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam's works, was perhaps a precursor of things to come. The same year saw the Drishti festival presenting a new theme, Kavi Namana, where ten noted artistes and groups across India paid tribute to well-known poets. At her Dristhi Art Centre itself, one of the meaningful activities was Upakhyana, a series of seven story-telling episodes for the wards - an exercise to creatively present stories drawn from ancient Indian history, the Panchatantras and folk tales. Ramayana - detailed storytelling was another series of discussions among the dancers to delve into the kandas of the text.

Marga Drishti class
Marga Drishti class

Marga Drishti class
Marga Drishti class

Central to all her art activities so far, and as a culmination of her ambitions to involve the dance community into a deeper level of education, is the recently started Marga Drishti, with the singular intention of promoting and propagating the rich marga tradition of the Natyashastra. Marga Drishti is perhaps one of the most futuristic projects for the preservation of Bharata Muni's treatise as an indispensable base material for dance for all times.

While Karanas have been taught by some dance schools in Bengaluru, the authenticity of Marga Drishti lies in its pioneering spirit - Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam will steer the course personally. Anuradha is individually training the dancers in the movement vocabulary of the Natyashastra. But the matrix is from what Dr. Subrahmanyam has reconstructed from the text. That the course itself was inaugurated online by her lends it a weight and credibility all its own.

How this came about has an interesting background. "When I was doing my post-graduation, which involved allied arts such as architecture, I learnt that Kumara Kampanna, the son of king Bukka of Vijayanagar, was instrumental for the revival of art and culture in Tamil Nadu! This opened my eyes to the geographical contiguities of dance and music. I realized too the importance of a Guru", says Anuradha, whose subsequent learning from Dr. Subrahmanyam made her realize the "limitlessness of the horizons of art".

"She (Dr. Subrahmanyam) taught me some of her exclusive dance compositions. I realized that dance vocabulary is unending. Body control, awareness of the technical terms of every single part of the body, was a mind-blowing experience. She has a great set of vyayamas which ensure flexibility".

The syllabi of the four-month course includes the fundamentals of vyayamas, use of angas and upangas, hastas and nritta hastas, charis, according to the Natyashastra. It needs to be noted here that it is not drawn from the Natya Darpana, which is the more commonly followed text. "My conducting this course comes with tremendous responsibility. I want to further develop the pedagogy over time", says Anuradha of the course, which is open to all. The certificate course will be reviewed by Dr. Subrahmanyam individually, which further authenticates the project.

Jyothi Raghuram
Jyothi Raghuram is a senior journalist and art critic based in Bangalore.

Refreshing. Reminds me of the 108 shilpa sastra depicted by Swarnamuki. Pandanallur, near my native village is a baani, a dance tradition. Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam did an extensive study on this. Thanks for kindling. Made my day!!
(K . Lakshminarasimhan, 9 January 2022)

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