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Tamrapatra Session 1- accessing the esoteric world of Annamacharya
- Janani Murali

July 15, 2021

Tamrapatra is an initiative by Natyarambha and Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant, conceptualised as a year-long project of celebrating, teaching and learning twelve of Annamacharya's Sankirtanas. The series began with its first session on the 10 and 11th of July. The project in itself has garnered much anticipation: twelve rare Sankirtanas, selected from the 108 that were set to music by Sathiraju Venumadhav, delineated by Dr. Anupama Kylash, and choreographically interpreted by 12 leading artistes across dance styles.

"Kaalamulaarunu galigi niiku nide", the first kriti chosen for Tamrapatra, was taught by Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant with scholarly delineation by Dr. Anupama Kylash. In this kriti, Annamacharya playfully refers to Alamelu Manga and her advances towards Lord Venkateswara as the 6 seasons, making for interesting imagery of the sringara between the Lord and the Goddess. Spring is in the fragrant flowers that cascade from Alamelu Manga's hair and in the creepers that are her arms, summer is in the warm draughts of passion emanating from her body, rain is in the beads of sweat that decorate her brow, autumn is in the moon beam like gaze that she darts towards Venkateswara, winter in the proximity she assumes and late winter or early spring is the consummation of their love.

Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant

The beauty of Annamayya humanising this divine love brings with it a sense of simplicity and esotericism both at once and the question then arises of what is appropriate or not in translating these lyrics into visuals. While drawing attention to the 'auchityam' or aesthetic appropriateness that such sringara Sankirtanas warrant, Dr. Ananda provided the participants with a wide framework of 'ideas-to-execution' that they could draw from. Additionally, by placing Annamacharya's imagery of seasons in the context of other poets such as Kalidasa, Vallabha, Adi Shankara and Brahmanand (and others), Dr. Anupama Kylash's juxtaposition of ideas between poets presented varied possibilities to the participants to enrich their visual vocabulary and ideation. "Annamacharya's own gravity of thought and play on words offer several layers of meaning," stressed Dr. Anupama. To assimilate these layers and find meaningful expression might come only with an immersion into this poem in the weeks, months and years to follow. Towards this, the session offered the discerning dancer a three pronged approach - understanding the poet's intention, literary transcreation and musicality, and visual interpretation. Tamrapatra is structured to be a guided exploration at all these levels, and thus is prospectively a liberating experience for the dancer to take this poem forward through individual sensibilities.

Over the 2 days of session 1, accessibility of language, theoretical constructs of Nayika, subtleties, variation in motifs, economy of gesture, aesthetics and current day socio-politics all found place for discussion. That a 15th century poet would trigger a cascade of thoughts and questions from students across an entire spectrum is inspiring to say the least. "To gather all the strands of this poem so that one can perform it with ease and conviction for an audience is the goal," said Dr. Ananda as she and Dr. Anupama contextualised the poem, poet and protagonists for the 21st century dancer. Inaugurating the series, veteran Guru Chitra Visweswaran remembered her own tryst with the poetry of Annamacharya and the long arduous but enriching hours spent in assimilating it. The accessibility and immersive potential that this series was promising for students of dance is worthy of acknowledgement, she said, an opinion that resonated with many who completed Session 1.

Dr. Anupama Kylash

To be invited as a writer to this session presented me with the opportunity to observe a teaching-learning environment of a different kind. Breaking the compulsion to mimic the teacher's choreography but instead allowing participants to understand their creative inputs, with notated music that offers ample scope for adaptation and with scholarly expertise replete with references and cross references, this is a learning module that could and hopefully will extrapolate into other avenues of learning in creative pursuit. In my rumination over it, I realise that this structure, approach and access to poetry is one that many of my peers and I often discuss as a want. Here it is in the Now! And that it has triggered off a train of thoughts and questions on poetry, technique, pedagogy, cultural politics and more for me and other students of dance (in various capacities) is another win for us.

A short video capturing the two day sessions

The next in the series will be held during the second weekend of August 2021, with delineation and choreography by Dr. Anupama Kylash.

Janani Murali is a dancer, writer, biologist and ecoprenuer. She is Associate Artistic Director of Padmalaya Dance Foundation, Bangalore, and Executive Member of International Dance Alliance, Bangalore Chapter.

A flawless launch today of the year-long learning project "Tamrapatra" by Natyarambha (conceived by Ananda Shankar Jayant), Anupama Kylash's (literary resource scholar) poetically enriched & comprehensive introduction with cross-references, and Ananda's imaginatively fertile abhinaya guidance, were a treat and kept me smiling throughout. Dance students should try to attend all sessions even if it is not of their dance style. There is going to be a lot of learning, thinking, and growing for those who do. Tamrapatra has turned out to be a meticulously thought out and executed project - from planning to promotion to presentation.
- Ramaa Bharadvaj

The experience of the first session in Tamrapatra was simply indescribable. I felt transported into dance heaven. What a beautiful coming together of Annamaya's shringara sankeertana- Kaalamulaarunu - Dr Anupama's amazing and scholarly insights into the meaning of the song and words, Sathiraju Venu Madhav's music and singing in Vasanta, team Natyarambha's wonderful presentation, coordination and orchestration of the whole event, including playing music and videos in sync, and Ananda with her beautiful and expressive eyes and shringara abhinaya, showing us how to interpret the words and music to natya and nritya and how to personalize the piece, and encouraging and coaching a hundred plus of us to join in and learn and dance in a beautiful fashion.
Sandhya Kode

Natyarambha'sTamrapatra: Metals are known for their varied properties and symbolisms. Next to gold, copper has a special place. Copper vessels keep water & other things fresh for a long time. Copper, other than being viable for utensils & wires is also known for copper plates & inscriptions in history. Out of the pancasabhas to Lord Nataraja, the one in Tirunelveli (How would I miss mentioning my home town!) is called, 'TamraSabha'. Yes, 'Tamra'... testified 'timeless treasure.' The new effort by Ananda Shankar Jayant and her Natyarambha is yet another tamra, again, timeless - this treasure is just reachable on hand set, at home convenience. Running for a solid 12 months, by 12 eminent choreographers, with each one sharing their expertise of a precious composition of Sri Annamacharya. Tamrapatra, powerfully kick-started with veteran Dr. Ananda in the past weekend with her lovely explanations and creative ideation - the central idea of the piece being the intimacy of Nayika and Nayaka. Well attended by a 100+ eager learners, Ananda ji weaved it through, pointing on auchitya, the shift from 1st person to 3rd person making both ends - justifying the composition Vs dealing with ideas in visual portrayal using smooth suggestive images - meet. I was specially finding parallels with the stages of love as mentioned in Tolkappiam, as she added layers. The pointers of how and how much to deal in aspects of sringara while presenting a Sambhoga Sringara piece must have been very useful to performers and choreographers. The two-day session that ended with Q&A left the participants with a smile of sumptuous supper. Also to be mentioned in this lovely effort is Anupama Kylash for her research and love for the padakavita Pitamaha (Annamayya). Grab the opportunity that is flowing with generous nectar, and simultaneously experience the interaction with stalwarts!
- Lakshmi Ramaswamy

An enriching session... Enjoyed every bit of it and can't wait to dance this beautiful piece. Thank you very much for organising Tamrapatra and providing us with access to senior gurus, their teaching and the priceless Annamacharya pieces. I thoroughly enjoyed your sessions and consider myself lucky to have been able to attend the same.
- Amy Kumar

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