Breaking the female bastion
- Jyothi Raghuram, Bangalore
Photos: Deepak

September 27, 2011

It was a classical dance recital that held promise of ushering in a change of scenario in performers. If viewed more seriously by organizers, it could lead to a radical overhauling of the dance circuit itself.  Male dancers have remained on the periphery of the dance scene by virtue of their gender. Opportunities for them are so limited that they have had to make do with characterizations in dance dramas, although they have become more visible these past few years.   

“Bhadrachala Ramadas Charitramu” at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore, on September 23, was a string of select compositions of poet Ramadas presented as solo numbers by six male dancers. And what a show of creativity, body discipline, and involvement it was on the part of each dancer. Equally compelling was the mellowed vocal of D Srivatsa.  

It was one of those rare recitals where the organizers and artistes had put their heart and soul into it to make it a memorable event. Appreciation of the overall effort in this venture begins with the thoughtful selection of the keertanas, which was a mix of the familiar and the little known ones.
The programme was thematic only as far as the composer was concerned. What one got to see was a deeply meditative approach to Sri Rama, with some episodes and characters from the Ramayana picked up and given a new direction, besides offering glimpses of the life of Ramadas himself. Although the theme was predominantly devotion, it goes to the credit of every dancer that the bhakti bhava did not overpower other facial expressions. This was also one reason for the recital not being monotonous.

“Bhajare Sriramam”, “Paahimam Sri Rama”, “Ramachandrulu Napai”, “Dinave Sudinamu”, “Ramajogi Mandu”, and “Ikshvaku Kula Tilaka” were among the keerthanas that brought aural and visual variety. 

Charles Ma
Seshadri Iyengar
Unnath Jain
Unnath Jain of Hassan used his body language and eyes effectively, while Seshadri Iyengar and Sathyanarayana Raju, as senior dancers, marked their presence with poise and self assurance. Gururaju, a ward of Vyjayanthi Kashi, has a bright and stage friendly visage, although the stamp of Kuchipudi did not get imprinted in his number. Somashekar could do with elongating his movements. Charles Ma had all the right expressions. He perhaps needs to understand the ethos better to gain conviction. 

One has always associated male dancers with powerful nritta. It was a pleasant surprise to see them emote so well. Each number had something different to offer. Nritta was incorporated intelligently to play second fiddle to abhinaya.

The pinnacle of the show was “Ea Theeruga” by Sathyanarayana Raju, where sancharis were used to sketch the characters of Guha, Shabari and Anjaneya. The dance composition was enlightening, particularly the Shabari episode. The dancer merged with the portrayal, lending a high degree of emotional appeal to the piece. The crisp Mangalam which brought all six dancers together, saw them depicting four of the dashaavathaaras, their gait, energy, enthusiasm, and differing facial expressions becoming the hallmarks of the show.

Sathyanarayana Raju
The group
Usha RK

The aaharya of the dancers was neat and adequate. The agility of all six dancers was complemented by their well-toned, taut physique. The   energy exuded by them matched their softer abhinaya. Without doubt, one would like to see male dancers on stage more often, if only organizers opened up to their potential. 

Credit goes to Usha RK for conceptualizing and sponsoring the show, got up for the G Seshappa and Sundaramma Charitable Trust. Support by Shakuntala Prabhath (nattuvangam), Lingaraj (mridangam), Venugopal (flute) and Diwakar (violin) was adequate.

Jyothi Raghuram is a journalist with over two decades experience in both the print and electronic media, having worked with news organizations such as PTI, The Hindu and Indian Express. Her specialized writings on the performing and visual arts have been considered as benchmarks for their comprehensive and in-depth dealing of the subjects.