Vysakhi Nrityotsav 2011 at Visakhapatnam
- Dr Sunil Kothari
e-mail: sunilkothari1933@gmail.com

October 28, 2011

Nataraj Music and Dance Academy in collaboration with Dept. of Dance, Andhra University at Visakhapatnam had arranged a National Seminar – cum - workshop on Indian classical dances from 18th till 20th September 2011 at the Seminar Hall in National Jubilee guest House, Andhra University. Renowned dance and film historian, critic VAK Ranga Rao was the chairman of the seminar. Prof V. Gouri Rammohan from Dance Dept was coordinator and the event was arranged by Dr. Lalith Guptha.

Bathina Vikram Goud, founder and president of Nataraj Music and Dance Academy, has been organizing the Vysakhi Nrityotsav for the past three years. The fourth edition this year featured a galaxy of dancers from different dance forms including Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Kathak, Andhra Natyam, Mohini Attam and Odissi. Along with the established artistes, the local talent was also given an opportunity to perform under the title Talent from the City of Destiny.

Sai Jyothi
Vyjayanthi Kashi & group

A young and vivacious Kuchipudi dancer Sai Jyothi was presented during the opening of the festival. She has an attractive stage presence and good grasp of the form. The imprint of Vempati Chinna Satyam’s style was evident. Vyjayanthi Kashi from Bangalore has won critical acclaim from the cognoscenti and has an enviable background. Hailing from the theatre background, a grand daughter of thespian Gubbi Viranna, she has an edge over other dancers. Kashi has a tall and commanding personality. As a choreographer of note, she presented ‘Shrishti’ incorporating the elements of Panchabhutas .The bijaaksharas for the elements had excellent Sanskrit shlokas evoking the images. In particular, the stotras relating to Agni were remarkable. The mnemonics were appropriately used.

In ‘Krishnarpanam,’ Kashi wove the story of Lord Krishna. Exploring abhinaya element dramatically along with her well trained dancers, she succeeded in creating the right impact. Impersonation of Puthana was powerful and well acted. The jarring note was the use of a plastic doll for Krishna. She would do well to avoid it in future. Also one appreciates that with limited number of dancers the role of Arjuna was performed by one of her female dancers as the male dancer was engaged in group choreography. In Gitopadesham section, Arjuna’s role is important and a male dancer would create better impact. In terms of choreography, lighting, sets, groupings, entries and exits, smooth flow, Vyjayanthi excels.  Based in Bangalore, she has intelligently incorporated Kannada compositions in a seamless manner. With her own individuality, Kashi has carved a niche for herself.

Of the performances, one which left indelible impression was of Odissi by Aruna Mohanty. I am familiar with her choreographic and solo works and by a happy coincidence had occasion to watch them recently at different venues. Senior disciple of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, looking after her guru’s dance academy, organizing dance festivals and participating in national and international festivals, Aruna has vast experience. Guru Pankaj Charan Das’s choreography of ‘Madhurashtakam’ further embellished by Aruna, with very well trained male and female dancers, invariably creates beautiful patterns and sequences. In ‘Varsha Abhisar,’ the depiction of longings of lovers during the monsoon season found a felicitous expression. “Ramati Yamuna theere” ashtapadi from the Gita Govinda saw Aruna in role of Radha full of anguish and agony, imagining Lord Krishna dallying with other gopis.  In ‘Shrishti O Pralay,’ from simple raindrops during monsoon how tsunami strikes unfortunate people, was shown dramatically.     

Aruna Mohanty
Murali Mohan & Nandini Mehta’s group

From Bangalore, Murali Mohan Kalva and Nandini Mehta’s troupe presented Kathak. I had an occasion to se a CD of their choreographic work in Kathak based on Purandara Dasa’s immortal lyrics “Krishna nee begane baro,” of mother Yashoda cajoling baby Krishna.  Murali Mohan and Nandini have imaginatively treated the lyric from the viewpoint of the parents Nandrai and Yashoda, in different situations evoking vatsalya bhava. They fit into the roles and give another dimension to the lyric for interpretation and exposition. Highly enjoyable. Their group of Kathak dancers displayed good training. Their presentation had polish and command over tala and padhant, recitation of mnemonic syllables et al were well received, showcasing the salient features of Kathak. The nritta numbers were enjoyable. Murali Mohan and Nandini Mehta have been doing excellent work in Kathak in Bangalore and have been performing in major national festivals. Therefore scheduling their work in this festival was a welcome attempt to bring to the notice of local audiences, dancers from other states.

Manipuri by Poushali Chatterjee from Kolkata had the colour and eye catching aharya with a polished repertoire of late Guru Bipin Singh. I was very closely associated with Guru Bipin Singh and have seen Poushali studying under him from a very young age. Therefore, it was like a trip down memory lane since I had the good fortune to witness a number of choreographic works Guruji created for the Jhaveri Sisters and is being performed by his large number of students.
Basant Raas with gorgeous Manipuri mirrored skirts and gossamer veils, typical peacock feather crown for Krishna and dazzling ornaments invariably cast a spell on audience wherever it is performed. Debanjali Biswas as Krishna and Poushali as Radha, with other dancers as gopis evoked the beauty of Basant Raas, and festive mood. Vidyapati’s “kahe madana dahat tanu hamar” – “Why do you burn my body, O Kamadev?” says Radha in a beautiful song to Kamadeva who mistakes her for Lord Shiva, as she adorns herself with a tilak which is mistaken as a third eye, an ornament for hairdo which is mistaken for Ganga, and so on.  Performed by Poushali with consummate artistry, it had all the beauty and charm of delicate Manipuri movements and lyricism.                

Guru Bipin Singh had trained female dancers to learn pung playing. The item known as mridanga vadan by two female dancers seated on the floor creating intricate talas playing upon the drums invariably brings down the house. Debanjali and Poushali won rounds of applause for their expertise. As is known, Guru Bipin Singh and the Jhaveri Sisters have a sizeable body of repertoire where quick changes of costumes and a variety of solos, duets and group numbers are presented with finesse and elegance.  If I sound partial in my appreciation, I think I have terms of reference and when I see the next generation carrying on the tradition so competently, I feel reassured of our great art.

Poushali Chatterjee’s group
Sobha Naidu receives Navarasa Naatya Kalanidhi Award

Since I had to leave for International Dance Conference at Kuala Lumpur on 19th, I could not attend other performances, which I feel was my loss. Thankamani Kutty from Kolkata is an established guru and has trained nearly three generations of dancers in Kolkata. Her training is flawless. I was sorry to have missed Mohiniattam by her disciples, brilliant Andhra Natyam exponent Kala Krishna on whom has fallen the responsibility of carrying on the legacy of late Nataraja Ramakrishna, Kathakali performance and 'veer natyam' of male dancers. I gather from ace dance photographer Avinash Pasricha, who gave a power point presentation of photographs of legendary dancers and musicians during the seminar, that the performances were highly professional.

The seminar under chairmanship of VAK Ranga Rao was well attended. With his vast knowledge he set the tone. I dwelt upon the need for studying sahitya to enact abhinaya well and full of depth. Vyjayanthi Kashi explained how she reached the present stage. Having seen Yamini Krishnamurty, she was inspired to learn Kuchipudi and she never looked back. She studied under CR Acharyalu among other gurus and said that she did not want to be a Xerox copy of her gurus and other dancers. Therefore, she worked very hard creating her own niche and style within the tradition. The large gathering of young students benefitted a lot listening to her. I missed meeting Kuchipudi dancer Sobha Naidu and critic Shyamhari Chakra from Bhubaneswar. But I hope to make up for this short visit during the edition of the festival next year.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. He is honored by the President of India with Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Senior Critic Award from Dance Critics Association, NYC. He is a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com