Prabaha-An evening of classical dance
- Dr. Nita Vidyarthi
Photograph courtesy: Rina Jana
May 4, 2023
'Prabaha,' an evening of Indian classical dance, was a laudable effort by Odissi dancer Rina Jana's institution, Krittika Bhowanipur, in association with the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, at the Jogesh Mime Academy, Kolkata. The evening was an exploration of a wide variety of impressive Odissi fare, solo, duet and group by the students of Rina Jana Ensemble 'Krittika' and gratifying performances by talented and seasoned Kuchipudi dancer Boby Chakravarty and Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Debaldev Jana. It was a pity that the eager audience missed the Odissi presentation of the acclaimed Rina Jana, a brilliant senior disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, because of a last minute leg injury. This was Rina Jana's maiden presentation of an evening of classical dances and she plans to make it an annual event.
Opening with the ritualistic mangalacharan composed by Rina's guru, set to music by Pandit Bhubaneswar Mistra in raga Bilabal, taal ardhajhampa, the group of dancers entering the stage with pushpa-puta hasta offered Pushpanjali (offering of flowers) to Lord Jagannath with the chanting of "Padabandey Jagannatha" and proceeded for Bhoomi Pranam, a salutation to Mother Earth before beginning the Vandana (invocation) to Lord Ganesha. The item set to rhythmic syllables was uniformly executed by the seven dancers and concluded with the usual Trikhandi Pranam.
An item titled 'Musical Journey' composed by Rina Jana for young artists in Ragamalika, taal ektali with the basic steps of Odissi, was an interesting mix of Pallavi, batu, sargams and other nritta items, well executed by two girls. The music by late Debashis Sarkar added an extra edge to the number.
A presentation of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's compositions set to music by Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra was seen in two duets viz. Batu Nritya in raga Bhopali, Aravi Pallavi, and trio in Basant Pallavi, all set to ektali. What fascinated in the Batu was the resonance of the accompanying rhythmic syllables and the final stance of Shiva and his consort by the duo. A notable feature of these items was the display of perfect "anga bhramaris"- especially the deep circular motion of the waist - by the students of Rina establishing that she is not only a consummate dancer but also an efficient teacher. The dancers proved their skill, dedication and good training with their grip on the grammar.
Sanjay Shaw and Sucheta Sarkar
Two senior dancers, Sanjay Shaw and Sucheta Sarkar gave a good account of themselves in the Aravi Pallavi by complementing each other with their sense of rhythm and maturity. Sucheta stood out for her poise and fine bodyline. Sanjay Shaw took the audience by surprise with his fluidity, sculpturesque poses and excellent anga saushtava in bringing out the rich imagery of Shiva in the popular Swati Tirunal composition "Shankara Sri Giri Natha Prabho" set to taal Jhampa and ektali in raag Hamsadhwani and Ahir Bhairav. The item, often seen in Bharatanatyam performances, was for the first time presented in the Odissi style, composed with a refreshing choreographic imagination with fine stretched movements suitable for a male dancer, by Rina Jana. Without tampering with the music, her imaginative choreography was embellished with a variety of permutations and combinations of bramaris, charis and belis and elegant hasta mudras. And Sanjay Shaw did full justice to it.
Solo items are extremely important in projecting a dancer's artistic training and mettle to gain recognition and move forward in their desired direction. So it was a pleasing experience to watch two seasoned dancers showcasing their artistic abilities in the next part of the programme with their solos.
Kuchipudi dancer Boby Chakravarty, a recipient of Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, has already carved a niche for herself in the dance scenario with dazzling performances at home and abroad. Trained under Dr. Madhuri Majumder, she is at present honing her skills under Guru Vanasree Rao. She established her mastery over rhythm with her very first dramatic entrance in growing tempo to present the Swati Tirunal kriti "Shankara Sri Giri" set to ragam Hamsanandi and talam adi. The brisk number describing the magnificence of the cosmic dance of Shiva especially the playing of the damaru had glimpses of jatis that carry the moods in the lyrics as narrative connectors between one charanam to another. The incorporation of the Dhanasree Tillana by Vanasree Rao added vibrancy with the changing regularity of the rhythm, while enhancing the appeal and flavour of the pure dance in this fast paced nritta number amalgamated with abhinaya. Striking presence, chiselled movements with the intricate nritta patterns and expressions with impactful yet elegant style held the audience attention.
Her second piece, "Ramayamainadi Ramayanamu Ramayanam" was an excerpt from the dance drama 'Rama Pattabhishekam Vaibhavam' choreographed by A.B.Bala Kondala Rao. The abhishekams are a special variety of Sabdam peculiar to the Kuchipudi technique, exploring nritta, nritya and natya and the most popular in the group of abhishekams being the Rama Pattabhishekam. It was the story of Rama from birth with details of major happenings in the journey of his life till his coronation and his greatness or glorification. Presented in the form of a fine compact abhinaya sequence in Ragamalika, adi talam, the execution boasts of sound technical base and gripping abhinaya skills of the dancer, simultaneously conveying different flavours and rasa in the Ramayana. There were moments in the presentation – the romanticism and charm of the wedding of Rama and Sita and the royalty of the coronation.
Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Debaldev Jana drew attention from the moment of his entry for his forceful solo. He commenced with Shankaracharya's "Jai Maheshya", a prayer to Lord Shiva in Raga -Talamalika, choreographed with brisk jatis by Guru Kalamandalam V.R. Venkitt. His physicality, agility and control in plenty draw attention and so does his neat, concerted movements of the limbs and his tall, athletic presence - not to forget his expressions of devotion.
An Associate Professor and Ph.D in mathematics, Debaldev was initiated to Bharatanatyam under the guidance of Debabrata Chakraborty. Thereafter he was in the tutelage of Guru Kalamandalam Venkitt and Preetha Venkitt and also Guru Thanjavur Herambanathan Pillai for honing his skills on the Thanjavur bani. Performed widely in different venues, he is also working on 'Multimedia Analysis of Indian Classical Dance of Bharatanatyam Adavus' in collaboration with Prof. Partha Pratim Das, of IIT, Kharagpur. His concluding item, Paras Tillana in adi talam with music composition by Poochi Sreenivasa Aiyengar, was a delightful experience where his juggling with rhythms was captivating and proved his skill. The riveting imageries drawn from the clarity of the dance idiom merged with the pulsating music and highlighted the enjoyable performance with robust vibrancy.
Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.