Natya Sangraham 2005  
- S Janaki, Chennai

March 24, 2005  

Nestling among green fields is the little temple village of Thennangur.  The flag fluttering in the breeze atop the temple spire of Panduranga-Rukmayi beckons you to bask in the warmth and hospitality of the simple and courteous village folk who say "Radhey  Krishna" - with the forefinger and middle finger raised in  greeting. Itís not a V for victory sign. The two fingers are the jeevatma and the paramatma - the taller one is Radha and the smaller one is Krishna of course! 

Once a year, a busload of dancers descends upon this small hamlet, which also has temples for Meenakshi-Sundareswarar, Shodasakshari, and Lakshmi-Narayana.  They come here to participate in the `nritya seva' for the Lord performed during the Garuda Servai, Dolotsavam and Kalyana Utsavam.  Dance then takes on another dimension as it becomes an offering and is not performed to impress. But this is just one activity in the tight schedule drawn up for the participants of the Natya Sangraham camp organised by Natyarangam, the dance wing of the Narada  Gana Sabha in Chennai. 

The dancers do not learn any item. The emphasis is on kindling the sensitivity in each dancer - towards equipping oneself with good technique, developing an eye for beauty  and aesthetics, understanding  the nuances of poetry and movement, realising the interrelationship between dance and other arts, and the need to approach the dance form from a holistic point of view. 

This year's Natya Sangraham (25th to 27th February) was the sixth such camp with Prof. C V Chandrasekhar as convener. There were as many as thirty dancers/dance teachers as participants.  The camp sessions were broadly divided into angika, vachika, aharya and satvika. Angika had yoga sessions by Gomateswaran and dance workout sessions conducted by C V Chandrasekhar with Shanta Dhananjayan. In the vachika sessions Prof. S. Raghuraman gave an insight into the Rasa theory as dealt with in Sanskrit and Tamil literature. Musician Rama Ravi drew attention to the differences between pure music and applied music and melodiously sang padams and javalis for the dancers to emote. The aharya session had artist Nagarajan talking about colours and relating the history of Indian art; as Shanta Dhananjayan gave practical tips on stringing anklebells, making flower garlands, tying the saree costume, and crafting decorative items for the stage with tender coconut fronds, V P Dhananjayan explained the nuances of characterisation, bhava and rasa in the sessions on satvika. 

There were interactive sessions too with impromptu performances as well as slots in the evening when each dancer could present an item before the audience, which assembled in the bhajan hall. The nritya seva at the temple was indeed a memorable experience!  The 
alankara of the deities, different each day, was a remarkable lesson in aharya. This year the special nagaswaram family from Chennai - Mambalam Seenu, his wife and son;  as well as the amazing  "Sripadam Tookki" team from the  metropolis made the Garuda Servai an "out of the world experience". All those who could - danced, and those who could sing sang, as the resplendent Lord on His Garuda mount swayed to the melody and rhythm. It was fun as the children of the village joined the participants and danced along with them. 

On all the three days of the camp the participants "talked dance, walked dance, watched dance and danced their cares away". It was dance, dance all the way. 

Janaki is Deputy Editor, Sruti. She is one of the committee members of Natyarangam.