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Nirikshana - 39th Natya Kala Conference: Day 5
- Prof Dr Parul Shah
Photos: Lalitha Venkat

January 1, 2020

The last and final day of the Natya Kala Conference 2019... What a morning! It rained, poured and drizzled! But the dance people could care less. As usual at 8am sharp all are there in the various colours and hues of the Akasha. Dr Padma Subrhamanyam, the doyen of dance, not just Bharatanritya introduced her disciple Dominique Delorme. He showcased solo the ageless tradition and peerless contribution of his guru. What a very humbling experience to be introduced by own guru. Dominique performed about 30 Karanas in a beautifully woven dance number but the presentation of 3 Angahara was just amazing. That Nritta is not Rasa or Bhava Viheen was so aptly brought through "Shringaram Kshitinandini....." ending with a Tillana addressed to the Bhumidevi with a prayer to Panchmahabhuta.

Shobana Bhalchandra illustrated through her brief and subtle expressions how her experiences are brought out and communicated through the use of various metaphors and similes in her dance. Through simple Padam, Varnam and Tyagaraja Kriti, she brought out various aspects of emotions and beauty using metaphors and implicit as well as explicit meanings. According to her, natyam should transcend language barriers and may introduce new metaphors.

Alarmel Valli started her journey of dance very young and her earliest performance on the stage of the Krishna Gana Sabha was at the age of 12. For her travels, exploration, discovery, awe, imagination are the realms of gold. The wonder of discovery and the modes of cultural transmission were through the gurus Pandanallur Chokalingam Pillai and Pandanallur Subbaraya Pillai and of course her mother. She believes that art of turning classical art then and there to now and here is the inherited challenge. The understanding and practice of music, poetry and words to a dancer is very important and an absolute must. It is the strength and grit of the dance and the dancer to survive against all odds is seen in her resolute coming back in full form after long months of struggle.

Sudha Raghuraman, Srinidhi Chidambaram, Vidhya Subramanian, Sathyanarayana Raju, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy

Four brilliant and well-known dancers, through their experience and presentations shared how the boundaries of subject, language or habit were not restrictive to their creativity. They worked with Nirikshana signature music composer Sudha Raghuraman for their pieces. The young working mother of the contemporary time by Dr. Srinidhi Chidambaram through a padam easily illustrated how these issues can be easily brought in. "Lilahava" had "Tum Radhe bano Shyam" where the complete letting go of the egos was gently brought through Radha and Krishna by Vidhya Subramanian in freeing and flowing of male and female energies. Sathyanarayana Raju made the trio Krishna, Radha and the Flute so fluidly smooth and gentle in his portrayal. Lakshmi Gopalaswamy took Satyabhama, seeking Krishna the lover as ultimate consciousness. Sudha Raghuraman's understanding support with musical sensibility many foldedly enhanced the experience of all.

The versatility of Bharatanatyam has allowed the choreographers to communicate their thoughts. At times it has become vehicle for their opinions and beliefs. Shankar Kandasamy (Neo Margam, Layakari) Anitha Guha (Nandalala), Sheejith Krishna (Don Quixote), Geeta Chandran (Anekanta), Chitra Dasarathy (Roots) and Nina Rajarani (Bend It) showed brief clips of their self-chosen choreographic works to comment on their creative impetus and processes. If one used levels, groups and randomness, for other it was the traditional Raasa, to other working on a story the music took the place of Sahitya. For another expert the multiple truths and multiple realities of a religious philosophy worked. Like a hand spun cloth with many hues and textures was the call for another choreographer where her dancers created the quality movement with their individual textural quality. For the last, living in a far land one had to reach the sense and sensibility of the wider and younger audiences. These were the different truths and explorations. Ultimately all the works spoke of the strength and sustainability of the form that is Bharatanatyam!


The final gem of the final day of the whole conference was "Anjasa" as part of the Torch Lights, premieres of trend setting ensemble work by Apsara Arts Company of Singapore with the creative director Aravinth Kumarasamy. It was to unravel the beauty of Buddhist architecture of the monuments of Asia including Mahadevi temple (Nepal), Buddha Gaya and Sanchi Stupa (India), Vattadage (Sri Lanka), Swedagon Pagoda (Yangon), Bayon (Cambodia) and Borobudur (Indonesia). Choreographically the work was over layered with architecture, design, iconography, costumes and dance movements. The use of special headgears and grand costumes added grandeur to the presentation. The great art of Bharatanatyam matched that of architecture, combined to show the philosophical elements of Buddhism.

I think the end of the 5 day Natya Kala Conference is the beginning of a new era for dance in India. Here I experienced the freedom and vibrancy of youth, minute planning and exemplary execution, importance of time-tradition-progress, respect and love for all, acceptance of diverse opinions and so much more. In the end I can only say, Rama Vaidyanathan, Krishna Gana Sabha and team Aalap, you will be competing with yourself next season as your pedestals are set soooooooo high! Thank you all and let's embrace the coming new year with all our best.

Prof Dr Parul Shah is Former Head and Dean, Faculty of Performing Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Principal Investigator, E Pathashala and MOOCs, SWAYAM, MHRD-UGC-CEC.

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