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Navaratri celebrations at Kochi
- Lata Surendra
Photo: Manjunath Menon

October 11, 2021

One witnessed a scintillating Kuchipudi recital by Parvathy Menon, a senior disciple of the renowned Guru Kalamandalam Mohana Thulasi and veteran A.B. Bala Kondala Rao, who is fondly known as Balakka in the Kuchipudi world. The performance was a part of the music and dance festival organized by the Ernakulam Karayogam, Kochi, Kerala, at the TDM Hall.

Parvathy Menon

The recital commenced with the Maha Ganesha Pancharatnam, a stotra composed by Sri Adi Sankaracharya wherein the saint composer, through five stanzas representing five jewels, illuminates various aspects of Lord Vigneshwara and highlights him as the aligner of all oddities and the allayer of all evil. Set to Thisragati and Ragamalika and choreographed by Guru Bala Kondala Rao, it set the right prelude to an absorbing evening to follow. The benefit of being groomed by two gurus was reflected in Parvathy's flowing grace, subtle abhinaya and deftly executed jathis.

The Govardhana giridhara, a traditional Kuchipudi Tarangam written by Saint Narayana Teertha was what followed next. Yati Narayana Teertha composed the Krishna Leela Tarangini as a libretto for a dance drama and introduced rhythmic dance syllables at the end of the cantos. Excerpts from it are often performed as a Tarangam by Kuchipudi soloists where they elaborate stories of Krishna and build it up to a culmination of pure dance performed while balancing on a brass plate. The Tarangam choreographed by the legendary Guru Vempati China Satyam in Ragamalika and adi talam, was the piece-de-resistance of the evening. Here, Lord Krishna was depicted as the one who lifted the Govardhana mountain to provide much needed shelter to his devotees. The rhythmic dialogue between the feet dancing on a brass plate and the percussion created an immediate connect between the charismatic dancer and the audience especially when post a long year of the virtual festivals came the Navaratri live celebrations at the TDM Hall!

The combination of the exposition of popular stories through dance interspersed with mnemonics unfailingly makes the Tarangam in a Kuchipudi repertoire a most enjoyable dance experience for the dancer and rasikas alike. The popular Swathi Thirunal javali Saramaina matalento portraying the khandita nayika was explored with maturity by the young dancer. The piece choreographed by Parvathy herself also highlighted her ability as an imaginative and sensitive young choreographer as she portrayed the jilted khandita sarcastically telling off her erring lover.

The recital concluded with Annamacharya's kriti Vachenu Alamelumanga in Ragamalika and adi talam, choreographed by Guru Bala Kondala Rao, wherein the Goddess Alamelumanga or Mahalakshmi is escorted to her Lord Ranganatha's abode. The seer poet Annamacharya's kritis embrace an outstanding musical element with emotional and philosophical content. The palanquin carried by beautiful damsels and the moonlight as witness with apsaras dancing around and the waving of colorful ornate fans was brought to life evocatively by the dancer.

A graceful and scintillating recital by a consummate artist thus set the pace for the week long festivity at TDM. Kudos to the Ernakulam Karayogam Committee for their continued patronage unto fine arts and artistes, if only to connect young minds to a cultural legacy that accords unto each our very identity.

A point to reflect upon!
If anything the pandemic has stirred the artist within each of us…with the longing to connect through the bridging metaphor that is the Dance, if only to link worlds through words draped in chords and brought to life through gestures according unto 'airy nothings a local habitation and a name.'

Lata Surendra is a Bharatanatyam exponent, teacher, choreographer, writer, curator and Section President of The Official Section of the International Dance Council - India.

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