Performance by Vyjayanthi Kashi  
by Sanjeevini Dutta, Bedford, UK 
Venue: Nehru Centre, London 
Date: October 12, 2002
March 23, 2003

Vyjayanthi Kashi, visiting Kuchipudi dancer from Bangalore, gave a forceful performance at the Nehru Centre. Kashi’s open and direct manner engaged and entertained the audience as the items performed moved from the nritta-based to the more narrative based. Informing us but not talking at us, she set herself the challenge of presenting the full gamut of Kuchipudi’s traditional and current repertoire from the solo to the theatrical kalapam and Yakshagana as well as her own contemporary work.  

The performance opened with Ardhanarishwara, invoking the symbiotic image of the male and female halves of Shiva. The jathi-s, which followed the descriptive verses, were created similarly to reflect the lasya and tandava aspects of Shiva-Parvati. Kashi’s bhanga-s had depth and clarity. She covered the stage well, almost appearing too large for the small space of Nehru Centre. The next item revealed the folk traditions of the Yakshagana dance drama. The text was voiced over and the dancer mimed the words, which slightly took away from the performance. 

In Navarasa, Kashi truly came into her own, using no textual narrative but seeking to evoke the sentiments purely through gesture and emotive nritta. This piece has good potential if the sketches could be further developed: the viewer was just getting into the emotion when the experience was cut short by her moving on to the next rasa.  There were some exceptionally vivid moments such as the casual touching of the wall recalling pleasure in the Sringara-rasa and the threatening advance, twirling a chain or whip in Veer-rasa which evoked a gang of thugs approaching. Where standard, off-the-peg gestures (such as stroking the moustache) were replaced by fresh images, Kashi’s abhinaya showed its full power.  

The last item was created post September 11 and was the dancer’s response to that horrific event. The item promised much as it opened to dim lighting and a soundscore of jet engines. However this proceeded to resemble an Indian News Review propaganda number with exhortations of ‘we are all brothers’.  

That comment, however, is not meant to take away from an accomplished and enjoyable performance given by Kashi, which will be remembered by many with pleasure.  

Sanjeevini Dutta is the Artistic Director of Kadam Asian Music & Dance Ltd., a public-funded dance agency and publisher of Pulse – South Asian dance in the UK.  She performs and teaches Odissi.