Manas is highlight of Yamini Muthanna’s recital
- Dr. Sunil Kothari

July 12, 2014

On 8th July at India International Centre, Delhi, those who attended the Bharatanatyam performance of Yamini Muthanna, a disciple of Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy of Mysore, were in for a surprise. Yamini has also studied yoga for past twenty years under B.K.S Iyengar. Vasundhara, her mentor for dance, is also known for her yoga training. Both the guru and the disciple have shown how yoga has helped them maintain their figures fit and supple. It has helped their Bharatanatyam technique also a great deal.

Yamini is an expert in ashtanga yoga. She runs her own dance academy Kalasinchanam Dance Foundation in Bangalore. She has been choreographing dance works on spiritual and secular themes. During the performance under review she presented Manas, a 45 minute choreographic work based on yoga philosophy. It was indeed a piece de resistance.

She began her performance with traditional numbers. In Mallari (raga Naata tala adi) she performed the ritual aspect of taking Lord Ganapati in a procession in the temple with a set of musicians playing various instruments.  Ganesha krithi (raga Athana tala adi) by Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar had well known story of competition between Ganapati and Kartikeya: who would complete the travel of universe earlier would beget the fruit. With his brother Kartikeya astride a peacock and flying at speed, Ganapati looking up in the sky feels helpless with his vehicle mouse. However, he intelligently manages to go around his parents three times and wins the competition, for parents are the universe. Mingled with slight touch of humour, the number showed Yamini’s imaginative approach.

Daru (raga Kamach tala adi), a composition of Muthaiah Bhagavatar with theme of Madurai’s king Pandya Malayadhwaja’s daughter Meenakshi and her marriage with Sundareshwara, Lord Shiva, was treated elaborately with sancharis of her battle with Lord Shiva after winning various countries, when she goes to Kailasa and seeing the lord she falls in love with him. Her third breast falls off and they are married. The other sanchari was of the goddess killing Mahishasura. In both the sancharis, Yamini displayed her flair for veera rasa competently. The subtle expressions were registered in quick succession on her face. Looking tall and with extension of her raised leg in nritta, she proved what yoga as input in dance helps create complete movement with perfect body control.

In Manas choreographed by her with guidance from Dr. Girija Khanna and Prof. Balaji of Mysore University, Yamini has successfully blended with music in ragamalika and talamalika various shlokas from Upanishads, Vedas, Bhagavad Gita mingled with swaras and jathis. In prayer to Brahma, Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devo Maheshwara she delineated attributes of each god with their respective vehicles and dance aspect, and the three states of creation, preservation and destruction. The abstraction in terms of pancha bhutas (five elements) were depicted with command over bodily movements. Resorting to Taitariya Upanishad the depiction of Annamaya pranamaya, manomaya, vaignana, anandamay koshas, was arresting. The shlokas for ‘urdhvamulam shakha’ with roots heavenwards she performed shirashasana (head stand) in a restrained manner winning rounds of applause. Very few dancers would be able to do so artistically as Yamini. It looked appropriate. Also the vrischika karana and the bending backwards and perfect split of two legs were admirable.

The philosophical aspects and speculative thoughts were conveyed in dance language artistically. Doubtless it was the highlight of Yamini’s presentation. She was assisted by a set of versatile musicians. Nattuvangam by Vasudevan, vocal by Venkateswaran, mridangam by Kesavan and flute by Rajat - all of them gave Yamini excellent support. Shalini Prashant’s commentary during abstract aspects was helpful and was given dot on time with perfect synchronisation. Vasudevan’s rendering of Purandara Vithala’s composition was melodious and full of devotion. A gifted nattuvanar, he wielded the cymbals competently. In terms of aharya for Manas, Yamini managed with well designed costume. Dignified and devoid of various alankaras, it was commensurate with the theme.

The audience gave her appreciative applause as the performance was well researched, with imaginative choreography and excellent music. The aspect of yoga was interwoven artistically and that made Yamini stand apart from other dancers. Bravo, Yamini! 
Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is a regular contributor to, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 12 years.