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Ekam Two unites dancers in festival
- Vijay Shanker
Photos: Madhusudan S Menon

January 4, 2020

'Ekam 2 - Oneness through Dance' was presented at Nepanagar International Dance Festival and presented at Nepanagar (MP) by Jagruti Kala Kendra and curated by Dr Lata Surendra on 23rd November. The festival featured varied styles with both solo and group performances that also witnessed the combination of dancers performing in different styles, while maintaining unity in diversity. More than hundred dancers performed in the festival. Besides classical solo and group performances, what enthralled the spectators are the folk dances that exhibited regional flavour with traditional music which was lively. The dances were performed by Mukesh Darbar of Jagruti Kala Kendra.

Sunil Sunkara & Lata Surendra

Lata Surendra & disciples

Ekam 2 was an ode to dance through dance. The symphony of six seasons through 'Rituvilasam' was conceptualised by Lata Surendra and presented in diverse classical styles of India. Through a well knit choreography, Lata Surendra skillfully brought out the duality of Grishma - Summer. The chariot of Aditya, the sun God, the epicenter of all creative activity, was impressive and beautifully etched through the dual styles of Bharatanatyam by Lata Surendra and Kathak by Sunil Sunkara and Manisha Jeet with Jeet's disciples' subtle dressing of the season without overt intrusions into the choreography.

Summer with the sun blazing and the common quest for water bringing out amity in the animal kingdom hit the message of Ekam admirably. The snake seeking shelter in the hood of the peacock was beautifully brought out with Lata as the snake and Sunil Sunkara as the peacock. In contrast was the summer night with the cool moon shining upon lovers, where sandal paste, stringed music and dancing has summer come to life against the fountains on terraces. Lata strategically used the kinesthetic of Bharatanatyam for Grishma, be it the use of natya, nritta or nritya to bring summer to life. Sunil Sunkara complimented her with the involvement of a committed and established artist. Evocative was the forest fire scattered by the mad wind that had three styles come together with absolute oneness through the talented Sreejith Sachin in the contemporary dance style.

The use of tarana as a foil to touch up the summer night was apt. The conclusion of summer with reclining damsels by the banks of the river seeking rain and all seeking relief in sandal paste and stringed instruments was evocative and it set the pace for Varsha (rain) brought to life by disciples of Kathak exponent, teacher and choreographer Sanjukta Wagh of Beej Dance Company - Pranali Kakade, Shivani Jatar, Vaishnavi Punyam. Fine choreography by the mentor had Kathak mirror the outpourings of the season capturing its myriad moods and beauty. 'The heart that dances with the peacock' and the pitter-patter of rhythms was brought out through the footwork complimenting the padhant. The sky overcast with cloud, the poetry of rain engulfing the senses was effortlessly highlighted in the movements of the dancers. There was no melodrama, just a subtle execution gathering the canvas of Varsha and the soft colour tones of grey and blue complimented the colours of the canvas, overwhelming in its quiet yet intense depiction. The canvas changes when with the stars as ornaments, the moon for her face, the cries of swans as anklets, autumn arrives as a young bride in love. What better way to bring Sharad autumn, to life than through the radiant face of Radha dancing with her beloved Krishna.

Latasana Devi as Krishna (Manipuri) and Shubhada Varadkar (Odissi), both renowned exponents of their chosen styles, not only complemented each other but also the canvas through their answering styles. Skillfully using the mnemonics of the two styles, their dialogues interwoven in the chemistry of' 'Radhamayi Krishna' and 'Krishnamayi Radha' was absorbing. The use of sankirtan music in the choreography highlighted the execution and it was interesting to see how easily two styles could complement each other while bringing to life the romance of Sharad.

Shubhada Varadkar & Latasana Devi

Sailaja Desai & Suman Badami

The duality of Hemant was brought out through Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi by Suman Badami and Sailaja Desai. The season was depicted with the outgrowth of fresh leaves, the Lodhra tree with fresh flowers and ripened rice crops in the place of lotuses post which two diverse aspects of the season was depicted by the artists. The virahotkhandita aligning her separation from her beloved with that of the Priyanka creeper separated from the host plant by Suman Badami and the swadhinabhartruka reminiscing about the warmth shared as she espies love marks whilst gazing into the mirror by Sailaja Desai were impressive.

The season then shifts to Shishir, wherein with imagination Manisha Jeet used poetry, lyrics and commentary to drive home the canvas of winter that concluded with the beautiful message that highlighted the cyclic pattern of nature and the transience of every unfolding seasonal canvas. The message had one recall Shelley's oft quoted line, "If winter comes, can spring be far behind." Manisha Jeet with her disciples Ashwene Vij, Rohini Vij, Omkar Chitnis, with well coordinated moves visually painted Shishir through the kinesthetic of Kathak.

The concluding finale that etched spring engulfing all senses was breathtaking as 65 dancers converged and danced in unison colouring the stage with the defining colours of classical styles merging in Ekam - "Sarva priye charutharam vasante." Dance awareness is vital, states Lata Surendra, "as it's important in a world of breaking news today, to have even artistes shed attitudes and gather the harmony sieved through a coming together of diverse pathways and forms. What we reach out with should be within us because then alone can we light a message that truly underlies any creativity."

The evening also had established artists such as Shamal Kanwalu and disciples etching the munificence of Lord Nataraja through a well-choreographed piece, Sreejith and Ragima reaching out with Kalari and contemporary and wooing the audience with the synergy of two styles and their chemistry, Ritu Maneek (Bharatanatyam) and her team bringing to life the magic that was Vrindavan with Lord Krishna luring one and all with his captivating flute, Sunil Sunkara and Harshita Sharma who performed 'Krishnaayika,' a narrative that brought together Dheerlalit Krishna and Radha-Abhisarika written and choreographed by Dr. Puru Dadheech and Dr. Vibha Dadheech (the most illustrious Kathak duo of Madhya Pradesh).

Kathak dancer Anu Harshal and disciples with the Sufi loftiness exalted through the 'katha' that is Kathak, Kalamandalam Vijayshree Pillai and her endearing disciples (Kuchipudi) showcasing the tarangam to a rapt and engrossed audience of over 3500 people. The evening concluded with the energised folk forms 'Jogwa' and 'Gondhal' by Shamal Kanwalu and her team followed by organizer Mukesh Darbar and his team of live musicians urging all to join in the crescendo of rhythms to highlight Ekam 2. Sound effects by Nandlal Rele and lights by Pednekar added to the visual poetry. The organisers felicitated Lata Surendra, Latasana Devi, Shubhada Varadkar, Manisha Jeet, Suman Badami, Sailaja Desai with title of NEPA SHIROMANI.

"Dance routes to awareness are vital because as artistes we also have a responsibility to create sensitive rasikas. It is important to reach out and seek to highlight the cultural legacy we as artistes are custodians of, in those Indians who are distanced from it and who inhabit the remote corners of our country. Art can flourish provided we nurture the outlook within rasikas and create a pulsating environment that links worlds through the moving vocabulary and metaphor called 'dance'," said curator Lata Surendra.

Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.

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