- Vaanmadhi Jagan
November 23, 2012
Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy’s ten day dance festival Rasavikalpam was organised during the first two weeks of November in four different venues in Kerala. Workshops in Kathak, abhinaya in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Koodiyattam were organised in Palakkad, Kozhikode, Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram during the early mornings and evenings, followed by performances in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi and Kathak in the evenings by renowned artists. The aim of the festival was to educate the participants on Indian classical dances and spread the culture of learning Art for Art’s sake.
I had the opportunity to be part of the festival at Kozhikode and happy to share my experiences at Rasavikalpam. Dha dhin dhin dha, dha dhin dhin dha, dha dhin dhin dha, dha dhin dhin dha.... this is how the day began for me ever since I came to Rasavikalpam. For a girl who found it hard to wake up even for her exams during the early hours, it was so easy to be in class at 6.30am, at Town Hall. Ten days of dance, dance and only dance, Rasavikalpam had pooled in fine artistes from across India, to offer an enchanting learning experience.
The first three days of the workshop on Kathak by Parwati Dutta offered a deep insight on the basic techniques of Kathak to the philosophical purpose and experience of dancing. A fine guru is someone who initiates the thirst for knowledge and guides us on a trail where learning becomes joyful and complete. Parwati Dutta is one such fine guru, who made the three day Kathak workshop a very enjoyable experience. Listening to her class in the morning and evening hours of the day was as blissful as it was to watch her dance and sing along. Thatkars, bhols, thali, khali, chakra hasthas, riyaz, sadhana, Kasthuri thilaka, Krishna Vandnam, Jaya ma, Saraswati Vandanam, aesthetics and heritage of the dance form and what not... it was an excellent initiation. A spark was lit to put us, the young practitioners of Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam, on a quest for knowledge on other Indian classical dance forms.
The opening performance of the festival by Mythili Prakash was a rendition par excellence. Her agile movements and powerful performance enthralled the Kozhikode audience. The second day’s performance by the dancing couple Renjith and Vijna in traditional Kalakshetra style was a delight to watch. They complemented each other on stage, it was certainly a well coordinated and well rehearsed performance. Lavanya Ananth’s dance recital on the third day of the festival, kept the audience spellbound. Her rendition of the popular varnam, Saamiyai azhaithodi va by Guru Dhandayuthapani Pillai was wonderfully choreographed and presented. A tricky ashtapadi of Jayadeva, a combination of sensual and divine union of Krishna and Radha was presented brilliantly with great poise and sensitivity, thus elevating the recital to higher levels of dancing.
Rasavikalpam had begun on a high note, and next in line was an exclusive session on abhinaya in Bharatanatyam for the next three days by Indira Kadambi. It unravelled the various dimensions and techniques to approach abhinaya while practicing and performing. The first rule learnt was to shed the inhibitions of the mind and body. Expressing through eyes, with minimal usage of the lips, fixing characters and their positions, rather than connecting with the audience directly and to present the characters with dignity were some of the major points of learning. Starting off with Mooshika vaahana, the Ganapathy shlokam, comfortably seated on the floor and concentrating only on the expressions, we learnt how to narrate a story and convey it to the audience in the best possible way, while sticking to the aesthetics of Bharatanatyam. It was very exciting to explore the Javali in Telugu, Apadhooruku lonaithene, word by word, in different contexts and yet maintain the sthayi bhava of the Javali.
Indra Kadambi took us on a beautiful trip to experience the various moods of the Javali and a Devarnama. She introduced us to the Ashta Nayikas and explained about each in detail which helped us understand the mood and the characterisation of a nayika in the Javali learnt. This workshop was an initiation to learn Padams, Varnams and Javalis or any item where there is scope for abhinaya with utmost attention to details and to enhance the performance.
The Kuchipudi performance of Sreelakshmy Govardhanan was beautifully presented. The ‘Mandodhari shabdham’ was the highlight of the performance; she kept the audience enthralled with lot of drama and yet retaining the traditional Kuchipudi style. Her conversations with her sakhi as Sathyabama was so adorable, her energy was up till the end, and was supported by a fine orchestra. It was a delight to watch her performance. Very rare compositions were chosen and performed by Narthaki Nataraj in the traditional Thanjavur style. The performance brought back the charm of the old world in contrast to the current trend. The Mohiniattam performance of Brigitte Chataignier was a very sincere and a beautiful rendition. Her presence on stage, usage of space, nritta and abhinaya were very composed and graceful that it was pleasant to watch her sway in those fine Mohiniattam moves. Her performance of the lullaby Omana thingal moved the audience and left them with a smile.
The four day workshop on Kuchipudi by Manju Bharghavee was packed with adavu classes and was a real test for the students for their commitment and interest in learning. Starting off with Natyashasthram shlokam the classes were focused on getting the students to know the feel and flavour of Kuchipudi and to perfect the adavus as much as possible.
On the last four days, the performances were very diverse from each other. ‘Keraleeyam’ on November 7th, a Rema Srikanth production, brought young and energetic dancers from Baroda. A mixture of Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam was presented to give the flavour of God’s own country to its own people. It was indeed an entertaining and colourful performance and was very well received by the audience. Meenakshi Srinivasan’s performance on November 8th was stunning, with glorious stage presence, rich costumes and a rendition in her own style. The Ragamalika Varnam, Saamiyai azhaithodiva was yet another beautiful perspective presented by the dancer. She excelled as she went into the mould of an uthama nayika and took her beloved back, in spite of him spending a blissful night with another woman. It was certainly a complete performance. The dance presentation of Yasmin Singh and Arthi Singh on November 9th brought the authentic Raigarh Gharana style in their Kathak performance. The final day’s concert by Sumithra Guha in Hindustani music was a perfect finale for Rasavikalpam. The festival ended on a high note with as much energy with which it began.
The ten days of workshops and array of performances by fine artistes was a boon to all who attended. It certainly spread the spirit of learning Art for Art’s sake among the dance enthusiasts in Kozhikode and served as an eye opener for many. Being part of Rasavikalpam will be one of the most cherished learning experiences of my life. It gave me an opportunity to learn from fine artistes and it was such a pleasure to spend the days learning, thinking and only watching dance performances. It brought young dance practitioners from various backgrounds to a common platform, which created a good learning culture. Thanks to Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy for a wonderful initiative. Providing the workshop free of cost has definitely encouraged more participation and has made the opportunity accessible for all. Scheduling the early morning and evening classes to enable the participation of school children was very thoughtful and a considerate plan. I wish that the festival gains more participation and spreads the culture of learning in the years to come.
Vanmadhi Jagan first learnt Bharatanatyam from Swarnalatha Ram Mohan and later from Revathi Ramachandran. Currently, she is under the guidance of Renjith Babu and Vijna Vasudevan. She has a Masters in Social Work from Stella Maris College, Chennai.