Sneha Chakradhar's delectable Bharatanatyam recital 
- Dr Sunil Kothari 
Photos:  Meenakshi Payal 

 June 5, 2009 

Geeta Chandran, the noted Bharatanatyam exponent runs Natya Vriksha institution in New Delhi, training a number of disciples in classical Bharatanatyam. Her own training was under the legendary devadasi Swarnasaraswati and later on she studied from KN Dakshinamurty. A front rank established artiste, Geeta Chandran has over the past two decades contributed a lot through her performances and choreographic works, lec-dems, new productions on contemporary issues and has won including Padma Shri, several awards and honours for her significant work. 

She presented her disciple Sneha Chakradhar in a compact Bharatanatyam recital at IIC Auditorium on 12th May 2009. Sneha has been receiving training from KN Dakshinamurty since she was nine years old and later on has continued her rigourous training under Geeta Chandran. Sneha is currently doing her Ph. D at Jamia Milia Islamia in Sociology, and continues to learn further and give regular performances.  

If the program under review is any indication, Sneha has done her guru proud. I had seen her two months ago when she divided her program with Sharanya, daughter of Geeta Chandran. In an individual solo program, Sneha displayed her unmistakable talent as a thoroughly groomed dancer in the bani of Dakshinamurty, further embellished by Geeta Chandran. 

Her father, the renowned Hindi poet and writer Ashok Chakradhar, gave delightful introductions in Hindi to each number presented by Sneha. Beginning with Mallari, which used to be performed as a ritual in the temples, when the Lord was taken in a procession, set to Hamsadhwani raga in khanda triputa tala composed by K.Shivaram, Sneha performed with élan. Using panch nadai, the five jatis, Geeta Chandran made the choreography energetic. Right from the beginning to her covering the stage, indicating various directions, Sneha displayed firm control over movements and tala and laya. Dressed in blue coloured costume, she commanded good stage presence. 

The Varnam in Behag composed by musician TK Subrahmaniam, dealt with the exploits of Lord Krishna. The  music of his divine flute kept under spell the birds, the animals and of course the Gopis. The gopi praying to Krishna begs of him to have compassion upon her. She recalls the episode of Kaliyamardana, when Krishna saw the cowherds, the animals and birds poisoned by drinking waters of the Yamuna polluted by serpent Kaliya. Krishna's plunging into the waters and subjugating the serpent were enacted dramatically by Sneha. The poet speaks of the feet which Shaunakadi sages worship, the very feet with which Krishna danced on Kaliya’s hood.  

The attraction of Krishna saw the miracle of the creepers leaving the trees and moving in the direction where Krishna was standing and playing the flute!! The peacocks danced joyously, so did Sneha, taking bhramari, pirouette both in regular way and then in opposite direction. Such choreographic touches by Geeta Chandran gave an edge to Sneha as she performed it gracefully. Naradiya sukta describes the enchantment of the divine; in the Varnam the stanzas described Krishna’s beauty surpassing that of Kamadeva! The pure dance passages were performed with confidence and won rounds of applause from the discerning crowd! The stamina demanding Varnam was performed without any obvious sign of strain. That goes to the credit of the guru who has groomed her so well. Geeta Chandran has every reason to be proud of her training and equipping Sneha with such solid  technique.  

The mood from requesting Lord Krishna to have compassion on a devotee, changed into a khandita nayika in Surdas's pada 'Mohe chhuo na dur raho ju'- 'do not touch me, keep away from me!' The gopi evidently awaiting Krishna, bedecking herself for meeting him was dismayed when he arrived late and with telltale marks of having spent time with someone else. She recalled how she was an object of ridicule when other gopis spoke of Krishna's dalliance with someone else. She watched while going to fetch water from Yamuna, from a distance, Krishna dallying with another gopi - Enough O my Lord, go and be with her who has enchanted you. Reminiscent of Bindadin Maharaj's "Kahe ko mere ghar aye ho?" And "Yahi Keshav Yahi Madhav" ashtapadi of Gita Govinda, this delightful pada of Surdas was replete with apt abhinaya. It suited the young dancer with youth coursing through her frame!! 

Geeta announced that twenty five years ago she had studied Natanam Adinar from Swarnasaraswati, more in the spirit of a pada, a reaction of a devotee who watches dance of  Lord Shiva. It was de rigour to perform at the end of a Bharatanatyam recital two and half decades ago and majority of dancers performed it. Geeta passed on this number to Sneha which she performed with ease and her stance of Shiva's poses never faltered. Solid and steady she stood like a bronze statue of Nataraja. The gradual speed, Lord’s dancing creating waves, Ganga's waters spreading all over,  agog with damaru’s sound, the earth shaking, the Sheshanaga, the serpent, carrying the earth  also atremble - a cosmic dance...  those who have seen it many times felt nostalgic and admired Sneha's command over the dance form.  

Mangalam brought the end to a delightful recital. The musicians including Geeta Chandran (nattuvangam), Lalgudi Ganesh (mridangam), K.Venkateswaran (vocal), Annadurai (violin), were in tune and the team work was exemplary. 

Dr. Sunil Kothari, dance historian, scholar, author, is a renowned dance critic, having written for The Times of India group of publications for more than 40 years. He is a regular contributor to Dance Magazine, New York. Dr. Kothari is a globetrotter, attending several national, international dance conferences and dance festivals. He has to his credit more than 14 definitive works on Indian classical dance forms. Kothari was a Fulbright Professor and has taught at the Dance Department, New York University; has lectured at several Universities in USA, UK, France, Australia, Indonesia and Japan. He has been Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific (2000-2008) and is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. A regular contributor to, Dr Kothari is honored by the President of India with the civil honor of Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi award.