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The Natya Kala Conference 2019: Day 5 - Dec 30, 2019
- Jeetendra Krishna

Jan 2, 2020

The final day of the Natya Kala Conference 2019 had a rainy start but that did not stop lovers of Bharatanatyam from turning up once again in large numbers.

Shobana Bhalchandra

Bharatanatyam artiste Shobana Bhalchandra was the first speaker of the day. In her presentation, 'Dance: Of Metaphors and Manifestations' - the artiste said that even the most articulate among us find it often difficult to describe profound emotions in direct terms. Deeply personal feelings such as love, anger or despair are beyond the boundaries of language, and therefore metaphors and similes are used to communicate with the audience. Rather than go into the differences of the technique used in Bharatanatyam, Shobana demonstrated relevant metaphors and similes, both interchangeably through poetry that is part of the Bharatanatyam repertoire. Shobana Bhalchandra demonstrated with clarity how to use layers of metaphors in a balanced manner, without going overboard.

Alarmel Valli (Photo: Varun Khanna)

And then there was Valli. After being away from the performing spaces for eighteen months, she is back. Back to share with us her journey through dance. I have watched Alarmel Valli perform for almost four decades now. In the royal theaters of Amsterdam, in France where she introduces her repertoire in French, in the UK and the USA. But most of all, I have watched her dance for many years in the sabhas of Chennai. Alarmel Valli presented: 'The Realms of Gold: My journey through dance'. The ever eloquent Valli spoke of how dance has always been her realm of gold; the infinite joy of creative exploration and the wonder of discovery that dance has given her. Alarmel Valli went on to talk about the significant phases of her dance journey that shaped her as the dancer she is today. The two most important phases of influence during her dance career have been the modes of transmission of knowledge by her gurus, Chockalingam Pillai and Subbaraya Pillai, both repositories of the Pandanallur bani. And the cultural enrichment and values she received from her mother. Another significant phase was her study of Padams and Javalis with T. Muktha of the Veena Dhanammal bani. These teachers of dance and music had the ability to transmit metaphors and images immediately to the mind of their disciple, and thus reveal to Valli a thread of connectivity between poetry, dance and music Śwhen the three come together seamlessly, there is no separation. Unfortunately, there was not enough time given to actually demonstrate in detail what was said with regards to these modes of transmission. Valli's "thaluku kuluku nadai", an important feature of the Pandanallur bani was particularly lovely demonstrated by her. I am glad Alarmel Valli is back on the proscenium to share with us many more years of her journey through dance.

Srinidhi Chidambaram

Vidhya Subramanian (Photo: Vinay Tiwari)

Satyanarayana Raju (Photo: Vinay Tiwari)

Lakshmi Gopalaswamy (Photo: Vinay Tiwari)

To speak or dance after Alarmel Valli is a challenge, and that task was taken up by four well-known dancers: Dr. Srinidhi Chidambaram, Vidhya Subramanian, Satyanarayana Raju and Lakshmi Gopalaswamy. With 'Abhinaya Expeditions,' each dancer explored the inexhaustible power of abhinaya, not restricted by the boundaries of a language or subject. The dances were presented with the soulful singing of vocalist Sudha Raghuraman, who set the music of the four compositions.

The final in the 'Torch Light' series was Apsaras Arts Dance Company, based in Singapore. 'A˝jasa - Unravel the wonders of Buddhist Monuments of Asia' had concept, script, music composition and artistic direction by Aravinth Kumarasamy. Choreography and costume design by the company's principal dancer, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah. A˝jasa, meaning 'the path' in Pali, the classical language of Buddhism, explores the beauty of Buddhist temple architecture. The thematic Bharatanatyam ensemble production takes the audience through a journey of Asian monuments.

With A˝jasa the curtains came down for a successful Natya Kala Conference 2019. A success if you only look at the number of attendees and ticket sales. The 'Pancha Bhoota' contest was full of fun and gaiety - ask a gay guy to dress up for the occasion and you will not be disappointed! Akhila Krishnamurthy of Aalaap and her team deserve all the praise they get for successfully streamlining event after event in Chennai. Artist Himanshu Srivastava beautifully designed the pendant that was presented as a gift to all the NKC 2019 presenters and dancers.

Needless to say, the star of the NKC 2019 was Rama Vaidyanathan - I found it heart-warming to see the support she received from her family during the conference. In December 2020, Krishna Gana Sabha will celebrate its 40th Natya Kala Conference; let us see what the convener, Rama Vaidyanathan has in store for us then! December is here before you know it!

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

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