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16th Drishti National Dance Festival
- Dr. Veena Murthy Vijay
Photos courtesy: Drishti Art Foundation

April 22, 2021

In Bangalore, the pandemic COVID-19 has affected many people, but there are certain mega dance festivals which never stopped. One of them being Bangalore's well known Drishti National Dance Festival organised by the Drishti Art Foundation. The Drishti National Dance Festival is a festival which is every artiste's delight. The art lovers, audience and newer audience definitely look forward to this beautiful annual feast as best of Indian classical dance is showcased on this platform.

This year, the organizers Anuradha Vikranth and T.M. Vikranth, did have several challenges in organizing this festival. Nevertheless, the festival was a grand success and Chowdiah Memorial Hall on March 20, 2021 was brimming with packed audience in spite of the COVID scare. Most of the dancers in town turned up to be a part of this festival, a rare but delightful sight.

Each year, Drishti's festival is unique because of two things. One, it brings together various young and professional artistes on one platform showcasing different classical dance styles from all over the country. Two, there is always a special theme which is worked upon. These two aspects make this festival more colourful and important for both the viewer and the dancer. This year's theme was "KAVI NAMANA- Celebrating the Poets of our country". Poetry may it be a keerthana, devaranama, bhakti sangeetha or the philosophical poems by various poets of our country were chosen by the artistes and a tribute to the "KAVI" and their "KAVYA" was paid. All this made the evening spectacular.

The evening began with Shilpa Nanjappa's Bharatanatyam performance on the renowned composition of Mysore Vasudevacharya. Shilpa has emerged as one of the most beautiful dancers from Karnataka. Her dedicated efforts and constant practice has taken her to great heights. She showed her prowess in her control over angikabhinaya with perfect lines and movements, using the space most optimally yet not ignoring the satvika aspect of dance. In spite of the angular movements, the grace and satvikabhinaya were always flowing into the beautiful sculpted movements of the body. Shilpa has a bright future in the arena of national scene of Bharatanatyam.

Shilpa Nanjappa

Dr. Neena Prasad

India's senior Mohiniyattam artiste Dr. Neena Prasad took the stage next. Her graceful movements and poise with the usage of the motifs of Mohiniyattam in bringing out the idea of the composition of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal powerfully was the highlight of the dance. Neena Prasad brought delight to the audience with her performance.

This was followed by the significant presentation by the Abhinava Dance Company. It was a thematic presentation where Krishna's pranks were vibrantly displayed by a young energetic group of dancers with colourful costumes, bringing out the snippets of mischievous Krishna playing around with the gopikas. The act of stealing butter though repeatedly seen and enjoyed by the audience, this sanchari brings enjoyment every single time and gives new perspective to the form of Krishna as God. The renowned dancing duo from Bengaluru, directors of Abhinava, Nirupama and Rajendra, being ace choreographers, have shown their expertise in the craft in choreographing this beautiful composition of Leela Shukha's "Sri Krishnakaranamrutam."

Abhinava Dance Company

Sreelakshmy Govardhanan

Sreelakshmy Govardhanan, an emerging Kuchipudi exponent from Kerala, presented a piece of Jawali composed by Mysore Sadashiva Rao. In the Jawali, the nayika is questioning as to why her nayaka has not turned up in spite of her being dedicated to him. Generally, the audience looks forward to a quick paced, bright Kuchipudi number and it was rare to see that Sreelakshmy picked a jawali to present on the evening. She did her act well and presented it with prowess and hold over the abhinaya.

Next special choreography on the theme of the evening 'Kavi Namana' was presented by the Drishti Dance Ensemble, impactfully choreographed by Anuradha Vikranth. The lyrics were beautifully penned by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh. An interesting simile was adapted by the poet in this composition. He compared the culinary skill of a lady who cooks with great passion by putting in various ingredients in right proportion for a dish to a poet who puts all his thoughts, imagination and dreams into words and churns an equally delightful poetry to bring out the rasa - the rasa, being common to both the food and thought.The dancers depicted two aspects on stage. One where the poet who brings out the various thoughts and dreams that he comes across as poetry churning it out as dramas, character plays, songs and others. On the other hand, a lady who cooks puts in various ingredients like masala, vegetables and many more into the dish making it very tasty. The stage was inter-spread with these two aspects and the intelligent choreography of Anuradha Vikranth brought out the meaning of the composition and the theme very aptly.

Drishti Dance Ensemble

Felicitation of Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

The greatest enjoyment and tribute to the poets of the evening was the felicitation to the internationally renowned poet, scholar and multifaceted personality Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh. Every dancer in town joined together in this joyous occasion on stage, thanked him and expressed their gratitude for his significant, remarkable and rich contribution to the field of dance not just towards the cultural scene in Bangalore but country wide. He was presented with floral tributes and plaque by Anuradha Vikranth, T.M. Vikranth (curators of the festival) and T.M. Manjunath (chief patron of the organization).

The second half of the evening continued with the Bharatanatyam presentation of Chennai's most popular dance ensemble Sridevi Nrithyalaya. They presented the composition of Muthuswamy Deekshitar, Ardhanareeshwaram. The aspect of duality in nature, the yin and yang, the purusha and prakriti, the male and female and the tandava and lasya was brought about. These aspects were interwoven into a beautiful tapestry of grace and dance. Guru Sheela Unnikrishnan's choreography was most impactful and the beautiful presentation by the dancers Harinie Jeevitha and Mridula Sivakumar with the costumes signifying the Shiva and Parvathi aspects of Ardhanareeshwara was well received and appreciated.

Sridevi Nrithyalaya

Prathibha Ramaswamy and Janani Murali

This was followed by another very good presentation by Prathibha Ramaswamy and Janani Murali. They brought out a very impactful poetry by D.R. Bendre describing the aspects of life. These dancers from Bangalore had made dedicated efforts in putting this rare theme together and they achieved it through intelligent voiceovers along with neat movements of Bharatanatyam which made the whole presentation impactful.

Samanvay Dance Company next presented a graceful yet energetic Shiva Tarangam on the composition of Narayana Theertha. The vibrant group of students showcased control and talent as they presented aspects of their performance, standing on pots, brass plates with water pots carefully balanced on their heads, with energy and precision.

Samanvay Dance Company

Shirisha Shashank

Chennai based Shirisha Shashank presented an interesting Bharatanatyam performance on the medley of Patnam Subramanyam Iyer's compositions. She began with an Abhogi Varna which was beautifully rendered with graceful movements and abhinaya and crisp jathis. And very smoothly sliding into a Jawali where the nayika shows the aspects of shringara with satvikabhinaya and rounding it off with a Thillana by the same composer. All the three compositions' interesting parts were chosen in bringing out the lilt of Bharatanatyam with all its elements of nritta and nrithya with satvika soaked in it. Shirisha has mastered her chosen dance form and has emerged as one of the well established dancers of the country.

The evening concluded with the performance of the Upadhye School of Dance who presented compositions of Vyasaraya. The group coordination was very fine with crisp movements not compromising on the style but yet with a modern approach. The young students of the school were able to capture the attention of the audience and were cheered along whereas the soulful performance of Parshwanath S Upadhye, Shruti Gopal and P.V. Aditya, directors of the institute, took the audience on a soulful journey in search of Krishna.

Upadhye School of Dance

The curtains came down for Drishti National Dance Festival this year with every audience member taking back a little bit of each of our nation's poets who were presented, who have selflessly contributed to the art of music, dance by their rich, meaningful and impactful compositions. It made the audience think how the poets have always kept the culture in our country alive whether it is the Bhakti movement or today's current scenario.

Dr. Veena Murthy Vijay is the Director of Rajarajeshwari Kalaniketan, Bangalore.

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