The living legends at Yuva Bharati
- Poornima Ramaprasad

June 28, 2011

Yuva Bharati is an upcoming organization in the San Francisco bay area that promotes classical dance forms of India. Under their auspices, there was a unique thematic performance of Dr. Balamurali Krishna's krithis and Lalgudi Jayaraman's krithis, on June 4, 2011. Bay area's popular dancers Savitha Sastry, Nirmala Madhava and Nirupama Vaidyanathan came together along with Virginia’s Janaki Rangarajan to put up this wonderful show.

Savitha Sastry, a disciple of the Dhananjayans, performed the laya heavy "Hariye Gati," a raagamalika, composed by Dr. BMK. In this dance, the dancer is so immersed in bhakti, she says, it is only Him, Hari, that can kill the jealousy and deception in this mortal world and that the world is waiting for him to take the Kalki incarnation, to save mankind, yet again. The other item that Savitha performed was a padam in raaga Murali “Ennadaina Vinti” also by Dr. BMK. She came up with some exquisite abhinaya to show her anger, her misery, that her Lord Krishna was going behind other maidens and betraying her. Finally, she says that she is nothing without him and confesses her love for him. Savitha got a lot of appreciation for this. She has such perfect postures and hastas and that makes her a very poised dancer.

Savitha Sastry

Nirmala Madhava

Nirmala Madhava, a disciple of late Guru Lalitha Dorai and late Guru Narmada, big names in Bengaluru, performed for the wonderful “Omkarakaarini” in Lavangi, a composition of Dr. BMK. She depicted how Goddess Parvati has two faces (or aakaaras) one symbolizing peace and tranquility as the Omkaara and the other so fierce that she can destroy mada and ahankara (jealousy and strongheadedness) in a jiffy.  She also performed for a javali by Dr. BMK, “Marula Minchera” in raga Janjhooti, yet another romantic piece where the heroine is expressing her love for the Lord. She says all sweet things about him, how she feels in his presence and how she longs for him in his absence. The portrayal of her love for the Lord with a picture of him in her hand was a novel choreography.

Nirupama Vaidyanathan, a disciple of Guru Swamimalai SK Rajaratnam of the Vazhuvoor style of Bharatanatyam and the most renowned guru of abhinaya of the recent decades, Kalanidhi Narayanan, performed the well known story of “Panchali Sapatham,” a composition of poet Subramanya Bharati to which music was set by Lalgudi Jayaraman, in a very touching drama. Her other item was Dr. BMK's varnam in Gambhira Naatai “Amma anandadaayini.” The number of different poses she took for the ettugade svara “Shive, Shive, Shive” mesmerized the audience and put them all in a total bhakti mood towards the divinity of the supreme Goddess.

Nirupama Vaidyanathan

Janaki Rangarajan

Janaki Rangarajan, a seasoned dancer and a disciple of famous dancer and dance researcher Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, was a newbie to the Bay area - but an unbelievably good dancer. Her araimandi was a delight to watch. Her perfect posture and the challenging nritta in her choreography took the audience to the peak. She danced for the varnam “innum en manam” by Lalgudi Jayaraman in raga Charukesi, in which, the heroine is yearning for the love of her beloved and begs for his presence to make her life good.

Finally all the dancers came together for a medley of the famous Lalgudi thillanas in raaga Hamir Kalyani, Brindavani and Khamas in a perfect way, followed by Dr. BMK's tatvam in which two dancers depicted the Shiva linga and the divine snake and two others argued about what they could offer him - the honey in flowers is already tasted by the bees, the milk is already tasted by the calves….even the water is tasted by the fish. The moral of this tatvam was that he is the creator of every living and non-living thing in this world and owns everything in this world – good or bad.

While each of these dancers came from a great lineage, they added their own improvisations in a very good way totally creating a wonderful dance showcase and establishing their identity. The musicians Jayanthi Umesh and Snigda Venkataramani sang the rare krithis beautifully with their own additions for sangathis and elaboration as needed for dance. Mohan Rangan on flute and the young master Hrishikesh Chary on the veena added wonderful interludes while the dancers were dramatizing certain parts of the krithis. Ramesh Srinivasan on mridangam and Vidya Balan on the nattuvangam aided good support to the dancers.

Overall it was a great evening with some wonderful krithis and superb dancing. Kudos to Yuva Bharati for bringing this wonderful thematic show for the bay area rasikas. We expect them to sponsor more such experimental and thematic shows. Where else, but in the bay area, can there be so many south Indian classical art connoisseurs for such experimentations?

Poornima Ramaprasad follows Indian classical music and dance forms. She reviews Indian dance and drama events in the San Francisco bay area from time to time.