Bharatanatyam Karyashala by the Dhananjayans at Goa
- Impana Kulkarni
May 3, 2022
Kala Academy, Goa, and West Zone Cultural Center, Udaipur, jointly organized a five-day long Bharatanatyam Karyashala at Mahalasa Saunsthan, Mardol, by gurus V.P. Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan, along with their senior disciple Shobana Bhalchandra (artistic/creative director, Bharatakalanjali, Chennai). All the participants felt it was a lifetime experience learning from the legends in close quarters and interacting with such great acharyas who are living examples of humility and generosity in imparting their knowledge liberally.
Shanta Dhananjayan, Shobana Bhalchandra, VP Dhananjayan
The students were treated to day-long sessions from 10am to 5pm, from 18 to 22 March. The days would begin with chanting slokas, followed by an adavu session, with detailed corrections on the right positioning of body, feet and hastas. Many Bharatanatyam teachers in Goa including Kshitija Barve, Sapna Naik, Mandira Tirodkar and Lalal Desai attended the workshop, along with their senior batch of students. The participants got the opportunity to learn two compositions choreographed by the Dhananjayans - Natyanjali and Yahi Madhava astapadi. With music composed by Turayyur Rajagopala Sharma, the Natyanjali is a sequence of shlokas interspersed with beautifully designed swaras in 5 ragas and 5 gatis (Pancha nadai). As the Dhananjayans taught, Bhalchandra demonstrated and the participants followed. Everyone was provided with the lyrics, notations and word-to-word meanings of both the pieces. They were even given the option of obtaining the original soundtracks for future performances.
Vaishnavi Joshi, a natya student from Morjim said, "We got more clarity on the techniques, body conditioning, shlokas and much more from this workshop." Another student Nidhi Raikar exclaimed how thrilled she was to learn how to improve anga shuddhi and expressions, and hopes more such workshops happen in Goa.
The teachers and students all were served meals and snacks at the Mahalasa temple's canteen throughout the workshop duration. Mahalasa Devi is said to be a form of Mohini, proficient in dancing. The large hall within the temple was therefore an ideal location for this Bharatanatyam karyasala.
Kala Academy's mridangam faculty Dr. Chetanmurthy and vocal faculty Dr.Deeptha Rubasundaram accompanied the dancers on all days. Having accompanying support of musicians in the classes was a great help mutually and they also realised the importance and advantage of attending the practice sessions. They said, "Shantakka taught the music with immense patience and clarity in musical nuances and how to accompany a natya performance. Her teaching enhanced our perception of how to sing for natya...."
On the final day, the participants sang bhajans led by Shanta Dhananjayan, and presented both the pieces learnt at the workshop accompanied by an orchestra, as an offering to Mahalasa Devi in the outer quadrangle of the temple. It was a divine experience as the dancers danced not to an audience but facing the idol. The organisers awarded everyone with certificates and tokens as 'prasadam' from the temple at the end of the event. The devotees gathered around were overjoyed to witness such an event in the precinct of this ancient temple.
Impana Kulkarni is an alumni of Kalakshetra, Chennai.