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A treat for dance lovers in Mangaluru
- G Ulaganathan

June 9, 2022

The long break in the dance activities seems to be almost over and even smaller towns are springing to life with classical dance performances featuring prominent artistes. Dance lovers in Karnataka's coastal town Mangaluru were in for a treat. An interesting dance feature 'Pratibodhana - The awakening' was presented by Rama Vaidyanathan and her disciples. When I learnt about it on social media I decided to go and see the audience response, especially since it was a ticketed programme.

Pratibodhana - The awakening

On May 22, the Don Bosco hall in Mangaluru was surprisingly almost full. Rama, as expected, chose unconventional pieces, and works from different languages. The show was organised by one of her senior disciples Radhika Shetty and her team from Sanathana Natyalaya and Nrityaangan.

Regarding Pratibodhana, Rama says, "It is every human soul's inherent desire to realise, to be aware, and to awaken to a brighter light, to a better space and to a more tranquil state of mind. The three dance presentations explore poetry, movement, music and expression that take us on to the path of Pratibodhana". She was accompanied onstage by Kavya Ganesh, Pritam Das, Reshika Sivakumar, Sayani Chakraborty, Shubhamani Chandrasekhar and Vaishnavi Dhore.

The Tamil literary work 'Thiruvembavai' was the base for the first presentation and it had music by the renowned singer Sudha Raghuraman. The beautiful lyric points to a group of young girls early in the morning. They are waking each other up to go to the temple. One of them says, "Oh friends, do not waste any time, and do not continue sleeping. Wake up and get ready to go to the temple of Lord Siva. Can't you hear the sounds of the temple bells? Can't you see that the sun has risen? Open up the doors and windows of your houses and awaken your senses. Open up your hearts and minds to the splendour and compassion of the great Lord."

This song also depicts a sense of togetherness in community building, where everyone is concerned about the well-being of others. The dancers combined well and used the limited stage space intelligently. All had equal importance and shared the limelight equally.

Then there was a solo presentation by Shubhamani depicting a nayika's yearning to experience Lord Siva's cosmic dance. Her abhinaya and graceful movement was pleasing. Then came a beautiful group presentation on Kashi, the abode of Siva. In this Hindi composition, the poet Swati Thirunal says, "Visweshwara darasana kara chall mann thum Kashi." It is the mind more than the body that has to make the journey to Kashi to experience the surging power of Visweshwara within us. Whoever visits this holy city is overwhelmed by the multitude layers of human existence that it offers. But Kashi is also a place that engulfs us to experience spiritual consciousness.

Beautifully choreographed with rhythmic patterns aided by excellent lighting, the dancers with Rama herself taking centre-stage, the dream world of Kashi was brought alive, the lovely lyric was full of devotion and the whole piece was a visual beauty.

Pratibodhana - The awakening

Then Rama took up Jeeva Dashavastha, the 10 stages of a human being based on verses from the Gurbani written by Sant Guru Nanak. Each stage is dominated by a desire which perpetually leaves man in a dissatisfied state. What is the use of these desires when each desire multiplies into another one making life miserable, asks the dancer and in this solo presentation, the dancer imagines herself as an embryo in the womb to come out into the world. The embryo recollects its previous birth—as a child, as a dependent on his parents, as a youth affected by various distractions, as a young man looking for physical pleasures, as a middle aged man trying to acquire wealth, finally the old age and waiting for salvation.

The embryo asks, "Am I also going to all the different stages? Oh Lord, is my life going to be the same?" The dancer assumed different roles with ease and using the stage effectively took us on a journey which is almost destined for each one of us. Genders may be different but the life cycle is the same, she told me later. This was a brilliant work choreographed by her taking the Guru Granth as the base.

The grand finale was Shivoham, a verse from the Skanda Purana which says "Jeevaha Shivaha Shivo Jeevaha." There is Siva in every Jeeva, and Siva is Jeeva. "As dancers the constant endeavour is to use dance as a medium to experience the cosmic presence within us. When we dance we become one with the space, and one with the divine. Every movement and every rhythm is an expression of Siva, the ultimate truth. Every crescendo that builds up in the music and the dance, is an emotional climax of bliss and awakening," explained Rama Vaidyanathan to the audience which gave her a standing ovation. A truly a memorable treat for both the knowledgeable and the uninitiated in the world of dance.

workshop by Rama Vaidyanathan

Over the next two days Rama conducted a three-hour workshop for about 50 students of dance at the beautiful terrace venue in Sanathana Natyalaya. At the workshop she taught them an Annamacharya kirtan in raga Chakravagam and misra chapu talam describing the pragalbha dheera nayika.

G Ulaganathan
G Ulaganathan is a senior dance critic based in Bengaluru.

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