Arangetram of Abhilash Menon 
- Pandithar Shivakumar Perumal, Pune 
June 10, 2008 

It was my second visit to Symbiosis Vishwa Bhavan auditorium in Pune, nothing seemed to have lost its charm, the beauty of the place was intact; yes, the atmosphere too was as usual, expectant. "Swarada Nritya Sanstha" - Guru Swati Datar's disciple Abhilash Menon was set to perform his Arangetram on May 18. Rasikas turned up in good numbers to witness the young artist making his debut stage performance.

Ramani's vocal recitation in praise of Lord Ganesha brought a serene atmosphere to the auditorium. Thodayamangalam was the opening item that brought the young dancer on stage. This item based on Lord Rama, and virtual characterization as the son, the husband and the king, were presented by the artist. Abhilash's dance was in fine flow with great symmetrical formations. Matching well to the rhythms and beats of the nattuvangam and the music, his dance was full of radiance, a very important characteristic of Lord Rama. Abhilash performed with ease and authority, a good stepping into his Arangetram.  Thodayamangalam was set to Ragamalika and Talamalika.

Set to Tala Trishra Ekam, Alaripu was the next item. This rhythm based pure dance item was performed well by Abhilash. Once again the young dancer's nimbleness matched the jatis. Abhilash seemed to gain composure from the first item, and Alaripu saw him blossom into confidence. 

In the Jatiswaram, Abhilash danced to the combination of jatis and swaras, reaching to create neat adavus and sculpturesque poses. The artist's good stage presence complemented his flow of dance, its hallmark being his symmetrical presentations. Jatiswaram saw the artist growing in confidence as he made more use of the stage space.

The item was based on the composition of Dr. Anjani Arunkumar, set to Ragamalika and Dhimar Tala.

Shabdam, an item wherein the dancer involves the rasikas into his dance, was in praise of Lord Kartikeya. The lord disguises self as a hunter and re-emerges into his original form. There were interesting foot movements. Shabdam was a composition of Madurai R Muralidaran, set to Ragamalika and Tala Misra Chapu.

Varnam is a descriptive piece, which involves both the aspects of nritta and natya. Abhilash performed a Taan Varnam, based on Lord Shiva, a devotee's description of the lord, explaining his physical appearance from his jatas to his ankle. Abhilash's portrayal of the lord as Neelakantha, the saviour of mankind, was attractive. He followed it up with the story of devotee Martandaya. In the second part of this Varnam, the dancer beautifully recreated the episode of Lord Shiva tying the Ganges in his jatas and followed it with the war episode between the lord and Bhasmasura. Abhilash's intricate jumps showing the heat of the war was intelligently done. His facial expressions also deserve mention. 

Post interval, Abhilash commenced with a Kirtanam in praise of Lord Guruvayurappan or Lord Krishna and his wonderful abode, the Guruvayur temple. A devotee singing in praise of the lord, his dancing, and the beautiful temple. This Kirtanam was set to raga Hamasanandini and tala Kirtanam.

The break seemed to have an effect on the young artist; there was loss of momentum, as if the dancer performed within himself. Padam was the next item, the dialogue between the nayaka, Lord Krishna and Radha, the nayika. It gave the dancer the scope of displaying the two characters simultaneously, and he did justice to it.  He also performed well in descriptive forms of the nayaka, as the one who danced the Kaliamardanam, as Venugopala, the Govardhanagiri. The Padam traveled between the happier times the nayaka and nayika spent together, to sorrow filled moments when they are separated. Abhilash's abhinaya as a saddened nayaka was good. The Padam was set to raga Kalyani and Adi tala.

Keertanam “Bhagyalakshmi Baramma - Oh mother come and bless us all - a descriptive praise of the goddess, this devotional item showed sublime performance by Abhilash.

The concluding item Tillana was followed by Mangalam, Tillana was set to raga Hindolam and Adi tala. This pure dance item saw the dancer on his way to regain the momentum of the first part of the evening.

The accompanying artists were: Vocal – Ramani and Swetha Majithia, nattuvangam – guru Swati Datar, violin – Anatharaman, mridangam –Shankar Narayanan, flute – Krishnamoorthy.

Sivakumar has a passion for the arts and is a freelance writer.