Encores to a late-starter  
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur 
e-mail: padmajayaraj@gmail.com 
February 29, 2008 

Art history draws the portraits of many late bloomers. Dancers like Rukmini Devi and Protima Bedi started late and reached the pinnacle of glory. Here stands with folded hands a young woman, Dr Jyotsna for whom work is worship. She has rushed from the medical field to the portals of dance rather belatedly. Perhaps life's inexplicable twists and turns must have brought her home. 

A childhood spent in Africa exposed her to the world of rhythm and music. Visits to India opened for her the rich world of cultural heritage. She learned dance under Dr. Hema Govindarajan who roused the latent talent in her. It was during her internship of her medical course that Jyotsna became aware of the yearning for artistic fulfilment. And dance loomed ...far away, her vocation. Better late than never, she decided to pursue the whisperings of her spirit and side by side with medicine she devoted her time and energy to learn Bharatanatyam. A Lakshman, a devoted exponent of Bharatanatyam has inculcated a consummate sense of the art in his student. And she has marked Excellence as her goal. "Whatever Jyotsna has achieved so far is hers, for we have no dance in the family to inspire her," says her mother Janani Jagannathan who accompanies her as her announcer. Indeed it is the support of her family and that of her husband who encourages her to follow her heart that helps her carve her niche in the art world of Chennai. 
That Jyotsna is born to dance is no exaggeration. That she is a late-comer is no accident. Nature has endowed her with an expressive face, and an elastic physique. Alluring smiles bud, bloom and fade on her face in charming sequences. Poised in postures that recall salbhanjikas, her eloquent eyes and dimpled cheeks paint ragamalikas on stage. Her nimble footwork playing in sheer joy lifts our sprits. Passion and confidence are the marked features of her artistic expression. Jyotsna's is an inspirational profile to the young women of St Mary's College, Thrissur. 
Organized by Thalam, a cultural society of the cultural capital of Kerala, Jyotsna's dance recital was a joyous event. Marked by simplicity, individuality, and elegance, the performance began with a Ganesa stuti reverberating the atmosphere on the Saturday that the students earmark for relaxation. 
The famous Wadakunathan temple stands tall in the heart of Thrissur. Jyotsna began by paying obeisance to its presiding deity, Nataraja. Swami Dayananda Saraswathi's composition "Bho ...Sambho, Siva sambho..." in ragam Revathy and talam adi was a fine selection. Portraying the attributes and aspects of Lord Siva, the dancer with deep devotion sanctified the twilight.  
Jyotsna at ease with tradition, stuck to a varnam by Lalgudi Jayaraman in ragam Charukesi and talam adi. Here the heroine wonders why her lord pretends not to have understood her mind. It was a joy to watch the fleeting facial expressions that reveal different moods of the lover. More than a lovelorn woman Jyotsna's nayika is a woman capable of peeping into the mind of her lover. She almost takes her lover to task. The innate strength of a woman in love is what we glimpse in her performance. 
The highlight of the performance was a Tulasidas bhajan. To people who adore  Krishna and his pranks,  baby Rama came as an unexpected treat. The young mother who tiptoes to watch her sleeping baby is alarmed not to find him on his bed. Angst ridden she searches him calling his name...lo, there he is taking his first steps, playing by himself. Oh, joy...oh joy... how his babble is like the music of a nightingale. She adorns her child to recognize Ramachandra, the king of their dynasty. What makes this charming rendering appealing is its simplicity. A simplicity that is made more identifiable to the ordinary. For, the Indian woman cajoles her dream child in the secret chambers of her heart. 
The fourth piece was of a lover's quarrel. The eternal lovers, Radha and Krishna are at the archetypal game. They seek out each other yet they pretend otherwise. Such a game of hide and seek in the mindscape of lovers is an enduring theme in literature. So "Radha is sad... Krishna is sad... Gokul is sad...." appealed to the youth who filled the auditorium. 
The concluding item was a fusion of folk and semi-classical nritta that presented a lyrical ecstasy. Authored by Oothukadu Venkatasubbaiyer the song is about an eventide whence Krishna the cowherd boy returns to Brindavan along the riverbank. The artist presents the sheer joy of human heart at the bosom of Mother Nature. The thrill of the childhood game of playing in the waters on a shore is more physical as in a folk number. The dancer conveyed joy in its purity. 
Jyotsna, like any beginner, does not transcend the mundane; does not aspire for the lofty. Yet there is that mark of reaching for the heights. As this young woman matures as a dancer, her art will surely point to higher dimensions. For the present, when every artist concentrates on interpreting a lyric,  Jyotsna's recital enhances the beauty of the lyric. The appeal is such a rare experience that made the audience clamour with encores.  

A freelance writer, Padma Jayaraj is a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com.