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Nritya Dhara Festival of Dance
- Shilpi Aggarwal

November 4, 2017

As Delhi is set to host the biggest dance and theatre festival of India, Delhi International Art Festival, in November, a much smaller organization, Sri Sudha Centre for Performing Arts, an initiative by Bharatanatyam dancer Rashmi Aggarwal, has brought some good performances to the capital in its annual dance festival Nritya Dhara. The festival in its sixth edition was held on October 11, 2017 at ICCR, New Delhi.

It is heartening to see that a young Bharatanatyam artist, who is herself struggling to find a footing in this industry, has been offering a stage to budding artists. Conceived as an annual festival providing platform to her students, in the last couple of years, Rashmi has shifted its focus by offering stage to other artists like her.

This year’s performances include Bharatanatyam by Rashmi Aggarwal, a disciple of Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan and Shruthi Rao, disciple of Guru Padmini Ravi, Kathak by Indrayanee Mukherjee, disciple of Guru Uma Dogra, Odissi by Ankita Bakshi, disciple of Guru Ranjana Gauhar, Mohiniattam by disciples of Guru Jayaprabha Menon and Kuchipudi by disciples of Guru Meenu Thakur.

Rashmi Aggarwal initiated the evening with Pushpanjali, followed by a composition by Swati Tirunal, Chaliye kunjan moh. She has a graceful presence on stage with a strong command on abhinaya. A distinct style of Bharatanatyam was seen in the dance of Shruthi Rao, who came from Bangalore to perform at this festival. She presented Varnam which had the signature style of her Guru Padmini Ravi who is known for her innovative choreographies and unconventional approach. The choreography made extensive use of angika abhinaya, particularly hip and waist movements (katti bheda) and various pada bhedas that are generally not seen in performances in Delhi. Her fluid body moves and energetic footwork made her dancing a pure joy for viewers. Lot of variations in music worked in her favour. Her Bharatanatyam was not restricted to the traditional realms of this dance form, it managed to go beyond it.

Rashmi Aggarwal

Indrayanee Mukherjee

Mumbai based Indrayanee Mukherjee’s Kathak had pathos that was striking. She started off with an invocatory piece, followed by pure dance. The concluding item was a poem written by celebrated Sufi poet Bulleshah, “Ghunghat ohle na luk sohniya”. With a strong emphasis on abhinaya, Indrayanee convincingly portrayed the agony of a lover, who despite being humiliated by people, seeks only love of her beloved, which too remains a distant dream. Emotions came naturally to her. Her spins were neat and perfect. During the performance, her tear filled eyes made her connect with the audience. Her Guru Uma Dogra supported her well on padhant.

Guru Jayaprabha Menon’s disciples began with an invocation to Lord Ganesha (Madhyamavati, chempada), composed by Kavalam Narayana Panicker and ended with “Saptha Jeeva” where dancers portrayed energy travelling through 7 chakras of the human body. Ankita Bakshi presented traditional Pallavi of Odissi dance form. Kuchipudi Guru Meenu Thakur’s group of young dancers performed Manduka Sabdam – a piece taken from Gajendra Moksham where a cursed king in the form of an elephant was attacked by a crocodile in a river. He called out to Lord Vishnu who killed the crocodile and brought him deliverance. The dancers looked promising, but Guru Meenu Thakur could have paid a little more attention to the group’s costumes, which were uncoordinated.

Overall, it was a good show put up by Rashmi Aggarwal and her team.

Shilpi Aggarwal is an ardent admirer of Indian classical dance forms. She runs her own tabloid on art, culture and travel, Bleisure, in Delhi.