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Workshop for a cause
- Janane Sethunarayanan

July 17, 2020

'Healing through Learning' Bharatanatyam workshops were organised by Roja Kannan's Bharatha Natyalaya, academy of Natyam and Sangeetham, in collaboration with eminent dancer and teacher Nithyakalyani Vaidyanathan for two consecutive weekends of July 4 and July 11, in a bid to conduct learning sessions to raise funds for Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India (ABHAI). The proceeds will be used to support medical expenses of artistes through ABHAI's 'Artists for Artists' Welfare Fund', which has provided aid to numerous artistes in need, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The workshops saw more than 100 earnest participants from across the globe including the U.S, the U.K, Singapore, and India.

Roja Kannan

Roja Kannan taught participants the Stuthi Pancharatnam, a celebrated choreography of Guru Adyar K. Lakshman. The composition's specialty lies in the lyrics sourced from ancient texts, set to tune in ragamalika and talamalika by Madurai N. Krishnan and jathis composed by Adyar K. Lakshman. The composition was divided into segments, the sollukattus and numerical patterns used were clearly outlined, resulting in better comprehension.

It was also emphasised that such elaborate compositions should be done in its entirety, without "editing" to suit shortened repertoires. Roja encouraged participants to delve deeper and bring out their individuality by rethinking execution, without changing the choreography.

Nithyakalyani Vaidyanathan

Nithyakalyani Vaidyanathan taught participants a Tamil padam, Unnai thoothu anuppinen in Saveri ragam, composed by Ghanam Krishna Iyer and choreographed by her, based on Kalanidhi Narayanan's style of rendering abhinaya. The crux of this style is the dialogue oriented approach to abhinaya. Each interpretation was elucidated first as a dialogue along with the intended intonations, followed by demonstration with music.

This song lends itself to a conversation being formulated between a heroine and her friend, who betrays her trust. Participants were encouraged to understand and imbibe, rather than imitate. Nithyakalyani explained that these themes and compositions are relevant today. She mentioned that padartham, vyakyartham, dwanyartham and lakshyartham of every composition must be considered for interpretation. She also outlined alternate situations which could be suitable/not suitable to this composition, based on the above mentioned aspects.

The workshops stood out for the meticulous planning and detailing the lyrics with meaning and notations were sent out to participants well ahead. They were encouraged to interact with the presenters, despite the huge numbers. What's more, the rendering was on a technological platform, which has its limitations. Enthusiasm was palpable in the questions that arose. Roja and Nithyakalyani's explanations reached every participant, irrespective of their background in dance.

A shout-out to Ananthashree, Nivedha, Tvisha for assisting Roja; Shruthipriya for assisting Nithyakalyani in demonstrations, and Revathy for overall coordination. Participants were content, for they had effectively learnt and contributed to a worthy cause.

Roja Kannan is the President of ABHAI and Nithyakalyani Vaidyanathan is a committee member.

A dancer and entrepreneur based in Chennai, Janane Sethunarayanan moved away from a corporate career to pursue Bharatanatyam as her profession a few years ago.

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