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The Natya Kala Conference 2019: Day 2 - Dec 27, 2019
- Jeetendra Krishna

Dec 30, 2019

The second day of the Natya Kala Conference began bright and early at 8am with the first in a series of performances: 'Legacy Lights' - solo showcasing of ageless tradition - conceptualised by the conference convener, Rama Vaidyanathan. The first of the series was by Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Sridar Vasudevan who presented the bani of his guru, the living legend, Dr. Vyjayantimala Bali. The mini hall of the Krishna Gana Sabha was overflowing with dancers and rasikas, so much so that a large group of people stood outside unable to get a seat! Dr. Sridhar Vasudevan presented a Melaprapti, Sollukattu in todi and Thodaya Mangalam in raga-tala malika.

Dr. Sridar Vasudevan

Radhe Jaggi, Preeti Ramaprasad, Christopher Guruswamy, Harinie Jeevitha (Photo:Vinay Tiwari)

The first session of day with the title 'Alarippu Adventures' placed its focus, as the title says, on the Alarippu. The session was an attempt to re-imagine the centuries old dance by four well-known practitioners of Bharatanatyam, Preethi Ramaprasad, Radhe Jaggi, Christopher Gurusamy and Harinie Jeevitha. The Alarippus are composed by senior mridangist Ramamoorthy Sriganesh. Each dancer showcased an Alarippu interspersed with carefully selected poetry. The Alarippu that stood out for me was by Christopher Gurusamy, who re-imagined Alarippu based on Garuda. He told us his inspiration came from the Indonesian images of Garuda and from Ram Gopal's 'Garuda: The Golden Eagle' during a visit at the V and A museum in London. The four dancers concluded with group choreography of Alarippu in Chaturasra.

This session was followed by a scholarly presentation - 'Cultural Graft(ing): An Early History of Indian Dance in the USA. Dr. Arshiya Sethi's work is part of her Fulbright Fellowship. A part of her work examines the earliest Nautch party in the USA, dancers who were nameless and faceless.

As part of the 'Torch Lights' series Bharatanatyam dancer Sucheta Bhide-Chapekar presented 'Tanjavur Nritya Prabandha' - group dances based on the compositions of Tanjore Maharajah Shahaji and Tanjore Maharajah Serfoji II, both prolific composers for dance and music. Presentation of this rare repertoire is the outcome of painstaking research over many years. This research was done by Sucheta Bhide-Chapekar along with her gurus, Acharya Parvati Kumar and Tanjore K.P. Kittappa Pillai. Guru Sucheta spoke of how research is not just exploration in the past but finding its relevance in present times, and looking ahead to the future. The group presentation included Pancha Jaathi Alarippu, a beautiful Abhinaya Daru with its structure parallel to a varnam, in adi tala for the first half and ata tala for the second half - set to music by Guru Kittappa in ragamalika. The performance concluded with a thillana in a group choreography set to raga Bilahari.

Jeetendra Krishna, Sathir Dance Art Trust, Amsterdam-Chennai.

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