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Pitch Perfect: Kasi Aysola in his performance for Kalanidhi Dance
- Rajika Puri

November 18, 2021

(Presented on Oct 16 by Kuchipudi Kalanidhi where Kasi Aysola has been Artist-in-Residence)

For years Iíve known Kasi Aysola as a talented exponent of Bharatanatyam. Only recently, when he joined Anuradha Nehruís Kalanidhi Dance as Artist-in-Residence, did I learn that he had studied Kuchipudi with the brilliant Vempati Ravi Shankar (whom we lost far too early due to a horrid medical blunder) as, also, with the talented Yamini Saripalli. So, in spite of being averse to online dance once the US opened up to live performance I signed up for the digital broadcast of his Kuchipudi performance with Kalanidhi. What a joy!

On reviewing Kasi's performances over the last few years, I find in them, a precision in the way he finishes every movement, giving each second of the choreography its due. Yet there was something particularly uplifting about his performance with Kalanidhi Dance, due, perhaps, to the elation of performing in front of a live audience after a long 19 months. I watched with relish each moment, teermanam and nuance embedded in the works, many of which I had myself learned years ago in Delhi with Raja and Radha Reddy.

Kasi Aysola
Kasi Aysola & the Krishna Kaliya daman that blessed the show

Compared to my five-minute acolyte's version of Manduka Shabdam, Kasi's lasted a choreographically rich thirteen minutes. In his over thirty-minute Neela megha shareera Tarangam, he not only elaborated on his description of Krishna during several repetitions of "nanda bala, yadu bala" but also ran a substantial gamut of the many gaits attributed to this darling of Vrindavan cowherds, a majority of which were performed, as is customary, with feet placed on the rim of a soft brass plate.

Kasi similarly threw himself into his Bhama pravesha daruvu in which, as the title character of Bhama Kalapam, Satyabhama arrogantly introduces herself to the audience by telling us how - as "the best beloved of Krishna's wives" - she is oh-so kissable and skilled in the art of love! He performed with ease the light footed footwork and undulating torso that so liberate a dancer's spirit.

Kasi Aysola
Kasi in the javali (pic: Siva Sotallu)

Most engaging was Kasi's javali in Kalyani, Enthati kuluke, into which he entered with gusto, especially when portraying a courtesan's arrogant (and ridiculous) return customer. The palpable sense he conveyed of the man's arrogant outrage at the clearly tepid reception he gets from her was sheer delight, a welcome palliative after the gloom of the Lockdown months. He both made us chuckle and showed us how 'classical dance' need not be heavy, serious - or, even, glum!

Kasiísmusic was beautifully sung by Ramya Kapadia, accompanied on nattuvangam by a confident Archana Raja (like Ramya, herself a dancer), Ranjany Parthasarathy on violin, Vijay Ganesh on mridangam and Dr. Amrutha Vishwanatha on veena. Weíre so lucky in the US to have such accomplished artists who both accompany our performances and also perform as soloists in their own right. As ĎMaster of Ceremoniesí, Bharatanatyam dancer Kiran Rajagopalan said at the outset that he considered himself a partner in the proceedings, had interesting things to say, but his interjections, covering as they did an ample forty percent of the duration of the show, did turn it into a quasi-lecture-demonstration and broke the flow of Kasiís thoughtfully chosen program.

Kasi Aysola's musicians
Kasi's musicians (pic: Siva Sottallu)
Kiran Rajagopalan
Kiran Rajagopalan (pic: Siva Sottallu)

With an entry into the Tillana (in raga Bhupalam by Balamurali Krishna) that included a swift aerial turn, Kasi captured the freedom and lightness of this dance form that is so much more playful and fun to perform than its sedate sister Bharatanatyam. Although Kuchipudi, too, follows a codified structure and vocabulary of adavus, caris, gatis and hasta bheda, it does do so - especially in the Chinna Satyam style - with a pliant fluidity that cascaded from the top of Kasi's head down to his smallest toes.

Bravo to Anuradha Nehru and Kalanidhi Dance for having chosen him as their Artist-in-Residence, especially as he will no doubt help train yet another generation of superb Kalanidhi dancers.

Rajika Puri
Rajika Puri, trained in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kuchipudi, is a presenter, curator and slide-lecturer on Indian classical dance as also a writer on both Indian, western and other Asian forms of dance theatre.

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