The "Vaibhava" of rootlessness
- Jyoti Raghuram, Bangalore

October 4, 2011

The purport of ‘Nritya Vaibhava’ of Ananya is to focus on fairly senior dancers who can bring their individuality to classical dance. An extension of this thinking would be that the dancer’s “mano dharma” would play a crucial a role in distinguishing her from copybook performers.

But this was one ‘Vaibhava’ in the series that failed to impress. One Bharatanatyam dancer’s experimentation in “choreography” tampered with the format without arriving at anything meaningful, while another’s trite abhinaya made her recital insipid. It was left to Smita Srinivasan to infuse life and sense into the evening, which she did admirably through her lively Kathak.

Rama Venugopalan, a ward of Rangashree, appeared to be a sincere dancer, her neat angikas showing up for the effort put in. Yet her nritta lacked strength, and her abhinaya was without feel, leaving the melodious varnam, “Innum En Manam” (Charukeshi) as a long sob story.  Neither bhakti nor sringara came to the fore, only a fretfulness did. Why does the nayika’s yearning for her lord pathetically end up so tedious, one wonders.

Neither did the swadheenapatika nayika get established in the javali, “Swara Sundara” (Faraz), her abhinaya bereft of any obligation to communicate. The theermanams, ardis and muktayas, central to the nritta in a varnam, were indistinguishable in the lackadaisical approach.

Preeti Sunderarajan

Rama Venugopalan

Smita Srinivasan
Preeti Sunderarajan was one of the earliest and bright wards of Padmini Ravi. Her involvement in contemporary dance seems to have impacted her Bharatanatyam. Her varnam, “Sendil Nevun” (Neelambari) and the ashtapadi, “Lalitha lavanga” were disasters. Erotica was perhaps what Preeti had in mind for the latter, but all she seemed to do on stage was lie down. In the varnam, also set to dance by her, one had an overdose of the deer, peacocks and the coyness of Valli, including in the korvais, which were used as a vehicle to carry forward the narrative. It did not test her stamina, it only did the audience’s patience.

Preeti is a dancer full of beans, but the demarcation between classical and contemporary has blurred in her psyche. Nowhere was the contrast between Rama and her more evident than in the treatment of their pieces. And Rama scored with her classicism, even if only by default. Their outings revealed that Rama has stopped growing as a dancer, while Preeti, in her bid to be creative, has lost her moorings as seen in her ineffectual choreography. The bottom line in any experimentation while on classical mode is taste, a sense of balance and not jarring on sensibilities. A no-holds-barred “creative” trip falls more in the domain of contemporary dance.
It was left to the bright and energetic Smita Srinivasan of Nadam, to redeem the evening. Her teen tal displayed her hold over laya, the beauty of her sanchari lying in the understated “Draupadi vastraapaharana.” The thumri “Kaahe rokata” (Hamsadhwani), and taraana (Purya Dhanashri) were lively. Effortless pirouettes, smooth movements with a flourish, and fine freezing at the sama, was for the audience to savour. Smita looked fetching in the second costume she sported.

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.