In grandma’s footsteps, literally
- Jyothi Raghuram, Bangalore

August 22, 2012

Guru Revathi Narasimhan is one of those teachers who usually conducts the nattuvangam for her wards when they go on stage, lending a degree of self confidence to the dancer that her teacher is there in the wings for her. So it felt rather strange to have her amid the audience, when it was a recital got up under the banner of her school, Natya Niketan.

But her keen observation of the happenings on stage said something more - it was her grand-daughter Ragashree Komandur who was dancing. Although trained in the US by Kripa Baskaran of Natyarpana Dance Company, Ragashree has imbibed some of the polish of Natya Niketan, which is to just draw a link, and not to minimize Baskaran’s efforts. 

The recital at the ADA Rangamandira recently set one thinking about dancers overseas, especially in the US, who strive to continue practicing the art, despite less avenues for performances there, as compared to India. This is as far as those who had learnt dance here and migrated elsewhere. Then there are dancers like Ragashree, who are initiated into the art in all seriousness by their parents, as they have a strong link to it here, in this case her father. This is all the more praiseworthy.

As much as going into the merits of the dancer, it is important to appreciate that she has been initiated and encouraged to pursue dance as a part of her upbringing. Ragashree appeared to have rehearsed well, as she ran through the recital without any hiccups. “Sri Krishna Kamala Natho”, a varnam in Reethigowla, with its episodes from Krishna’s life, brought in drama into the abhinaya, while the keerthana, “Aadi Kondar” in Mayamalawagowla, describing Nataraja as the cosmic dancer, had its energetic tilt.  Ragashree wore the right expressions in both.

She was active in the nritta portions too, her smiling face giving it an additional boost. The young teenager that she is, Ragashree has a long way to go before she can prove that she is not just another player in the field. The head start she has as belonging to a family of dancers should propel her into a serious pursuant.

A glaring mannerism she has to do away with is the frequent putting out of her tongue between the lips, which is a total turnoff in treating her dance seriously. Her costuming, by R S Manjunath, was neat, the tri-coloured one being particularly attractive.  Kanakaraj’s make-up, as usual, was refined.  

Balasubramanya Sharma, a now more familiar vocalist for dance, Vivek Krishna (flute), Dr. Natarajamurthy (violin) and G Gurumurthy (mridangam) made for a competent team of accompanists. For this journalist, D V Prasanna Kumar was a very surprising throw, as one had seen him only on the rhythm pads. That his talent runs to nattuvangam too means that an additional artiste is available for performers. Competent nattuvangam artistes are not easy to come by. Kumar’s nattuvangam is identifiable with and steeped in a solid sense of rhythm. His nattuvangam is clear, measured, and without gimmicks. That indeed is a treat in itself at a recital.

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.