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Indradhanush Dance Festival: Celebrating young choreographers
- Shilpi Aggarwal
Photos courtesy: Sunaina

November 29, 2017

True to its name, Indradhanush Dilli Festival of Arts gave its audience an evening of classical dance in all its colours, hues, forms, and variations. Guru Kanaka Sudhakar led dance festival, organized by her institution SUNAINA, in its 10th edition, featured nine choreographies of upcoming talents on November 9 and 10 at Karnataka Sangha, New Delhi.

The festival commenced with Shravan Ullal and Kiran Ullal's presentation, 'Moksham' which was a confluence of Yakshagana and Bharatanatyam. Tracing the journey of arrogant Kansa to moksham, the 20-minute dance piece had parts taken from Bhagavata Purana depicting imprisonment of Vasudeva and Devaki, killing of their 7 infants, birth of Krishna, his life in Gokul, attempts to kill him and finally Krishna killing Kansa. Already known as a good dancer, here Shravan's choreographic skills were challenged to put together the story in short time frame and he came out with flying colours. Neither too stretchy nor too rushed, the story pieces were brilliantly in sync, allowing the audience to savour every moment of it. Kiran looked every bit the demon Kansa. In his colourful costume, elaborate makeup and stark abhinaya, he evoked fear among the audience, but at the same time giving peep into his own insecurities and fears. He succeeded in bringing his dramatic talent to the fore in an act where demonic instincts of Poothana surfaced on and off when she was playing as young and beautiful maiden with little Krishna.

Shravan Ullal and Kiran Ullal

Aparajita Sharma and Pritpal Singh

Bharatanatyam and Contemporary dance styles were followed in the choreography of Aparajita Sharma and Pritpal Singh in 'Mrigtrishna.' In their portrayal of endless pursuits of desires and illusions in human life, Aparajita and Pritpal both came across as complete dancers with their defined and controlled moves on rhythmic patterns, elegant postures and expressions. Aparajita did narration in Hindi well in between her energetic dance moves. On the choreography front, the dance item was needlessly stretched. The performance opened up with dancers taking turns to do solo multiple times, so audiences had to wait too long to see both the dancers on stage together. Music too scored low, largely due to loose editing.

Post this, conceptualized by her guru Pt. Rajendra Gangani, Deepti Gupta performed solo on 'Treedhara' where she skillfully depicted the three important women in the life of Krishna and their yearnings and pleadings for their only love in life, Krishna. Her choreographic work looks promising.

On a tantric oriented theme of Dasa Mahavidya, the incarnations of ten major devis were celebrated in the choreography of another promising dancer, Shatabdi Mallik. Each of these goddesses - Kali, Tara, Mahatripura Sundari, Bhuvaneswari, Chinnamasta, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala - were enacted by Shatabdi and her group with great ease and finesse.

On the second day, Krishnakshi Kashyap in Sattriya dance form charmed her audience with her multiple swirls, circular hand movements and graceful postures. She presented "Rama Niranjana," a dance piece based on Gunamala, an abridged version of ten cantos of Bhagavata Purana written by Sankaradev. In her dance, she depicted the various instances of Lord Krishna's life including lifting of Govardhan Parvat and ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Krishnakshi Kashyap

Shubhajit Das

Abhishek Khinchi and Anjana Kumari along with their troupe presented a thematic Kathak presentation 'Anant' which had a premise that we all are on endless journey of learning and time stops for no one against the backdrop of music of "Om namah Shivaya." The soulful composition of maverick Pt. Rajendra Gangani and bright coloured costumes added to the beauty of the choreographic work of Abhishek and Anjana.

The performance that stole the show on the second day was Cross Mix Ally presented by Kolkata based Shubhajit Das and his group. Trained under the daughter of legendary Uday Shankar, he made a bold attempt of depicting "ardhanareshwari" - a communion of Shiva and Shakti on stage. In his dance, through lyrics like, Shakti equals Shiva and Shiva equals Shakti, then Shiva should equal Shiva and Shakti should equal Shakti, he subtly made a case for individual rights to choose a partner and LGBT rights. The 20 minutes performance was marked by high energy acrobatics and visually captivating postures. Though the performance received standing ovation from audience, it certainly was not flawless. The dance moves were too vigorous throughout the performance to make formations seamless. Lot of innovations in terms of costumes and a good use of props were infused in the dance. Shubhajit Das stood out in this experimental piece of art.

The placement of this neo-classical performance right in middle of the program schedule made the subsequent performances suffer in terms of audience attention. The one that suffered most was Dasavatar by Gauri Swakul and her group. Right after colourful riveting performance by Shubhajit and his group, the subtle Kathak movements couldn't evoke much interest from the audience. Gauri worked hard to bring refreshing take to her Kathak presentation. The costume had a black top and a dhoti underneath with a touch of Odissi, though a choice of black was a bit odd to portray Vishnu's incarnations. The dance too had minimal spins which is a trademark of Kathak dance. Different rasas were used to depict different incarnations, so were the range of instruments. Like Rama avatara had no rhythm and only tanpura was used in music. Costume and make up could have been worked upon to make the dance more lively and energetic.

Gauri Swakul

Rashmi Aggarwal, Vidya Gauri Adkar, Kavya Mohan

The last piece 'Madhurakruta' was an ode to celestial instruments - vadyam rachita madhura nrityam, conceptualized by Rashmi Agarwal and Vidya Gauri Adkar that brought three dance forms - Bharatanatyam by Rashmi, Kathak by Vidya Gauri and Mohiniattam by Kavya Mohan on stage. Opening with Saraswati Shloka, the three dancers went on to depict the categories of instruments in three different dance styles on verses taken from Natyashastra. The way they interconnected each of the instruments with nature was an interesting thought that talked about the caliber of Rashmi as a choreographer. A devotion to their art was evident where Rashmi seemed all absorbed playing veena for good 3 minutes and Vidya's spins and Kavya's graceful moves left audiences enthralled. The performance ended with a well-executed combination of all three dancers with a shloka stating instruments have predominant place in music and dance, without them no performing art is possible. The performance had a soothing touch. Beautifully coordinated costumes of dancers in white and green and the melodious composition of Dr. Vasudevan Iyengar added to the charm. All the dancers performed on pre-recorded music at the festival.

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