“I’m a dancer because of her,” admits Rama Vaidyanathan, the reputed Bharatanatyam danseuse, remembering her mother the late Madhavi Gopalakrishnan, a sensitive Rasika of art and culture. As a tribute to her mother, Rama conceived the annual Madhavi Festival of Dance, presented by the Kri Foundation at the Stein Auditorium last week.

The two-day festival presented two exquisite choreographies ~ Naam Mhane by Vaibhav Arekar and his Sankhya Dance Company and Vivartana by Rama Vaidyanathan and ensemble.

Rama had originally conceived and choreographed Vivartana on how dance transforms, not only the practitioner but even the viewer with its aesthetic delight, the Rasanubhuti, when the National Centre of Performing Arts, Mumbai, commissioned her to create something on Transformation.

Interpreting her own poem translated in Sanskrit by Divyanand Jha, Rama manifested how dance responds, merges, immerses, awakens and finally evokes the Rasa-Bhava that causes the ultimate Rasanubhuti.

With her own poem “Nrityam vivartayati…” and verses from Turumalars Thirumandiram, poetry of Rumi, Lal Ded, Meera Bai, Muthuswami Dikshitar and finally through the Gujarati poem by Narsi Mehta interpreted through her involved solo and group choreographies, Rama literally created the incredible Rasanubhuti and enabled the mesmerised audience to experience it for themselves!

The astonishingly vivid imagery of the spiritual awakening of Sant Namdev was portrayed by Vaibhav Arekar and ensemble through the traditional Keeratans of Varkari Sampradaya and the abstract narrations and motifs of classical Bharatanatyam.

The spiritual journey of Sant Namdev, his passionate devotion for Vitthala, even the powerfully moving depiction of the mental/psychological turmoil he goes through, took the spell-bound audience to another experiential state, the “Rasanubhuti” of ultimate devotion, or Bhakti.

The imaginatively-composed music and devotionally-charged singing by Sudha Raghuraman matched the passionate devotion and emotion of Vaibhav, the creative choreographer.

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Shri-Kshetra

Presented by Usha R K at the India Habitat Centre, Shri Kshetra featured Pavitra Bhatt, depicting the glory of Shri Ranganath of Srirangam in Bharatanatyam style and Shrinathji of Nathdwara by Abhimanyu Lal in Kathak.

In the imaginatively choreographed pilgrimage to Shri Rangnath temple through his pleasing performance, Pavitra Bhatt, the brilliant Bharatanatyam dancer, was totally focused on the theme.

His personable presentation was like a full-fledged Varnam on the famous Kriti of Muthuswamy Dikshitar “Sri Rangapura vihara…”, that elaborated the whole story, right from the origin and formation of the temple to his complete surrender to the deity.

Opening with the resonating Omkar-Naad with temple bells, Pavitra proceeded with the mesmerising depiction of the auspicious River Kaveri, the divine bird Garuda, who carries the Lord on his mighty wings and the mythological episode from the Ramayana, where Vibhishana carries the Lord, conceding to His promise not to put him down on the way.

Ganesha assures Vibhishana that he will take care of the Lord while Vibhishana goes for his holy bath and pooja, but puts the Vigraha (idol) down and it takes the form of the reclining Shri Rangnath, the Shesh-Shayi Vishnu in Srirangapuram, the biggest temple of Vishnu.

The dancer as a devotee covers nearly all the elements like Kshetram, Tirtham, Mandiram, Darshanam and ultimately the Anubhavam, or the experiential realisation of Bhakti by merging and becoming one with Him.

Abhimanyu Lal, the talented son and disciple of Kathak Guru Geetanjali Lal, was supposed to perform likewise for Shri Nath Ji of Nathdwara temple in Rajasthan, a significant Vaishnavite shrine pertaining to the Pushti Marg or the Vallabh Sampradaya, founded by Vallabhacharya.

Built by Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar, Shrinathji Temple is also known as “Haveli of Shrinathji”, the principal deity of the Nathdwara haveli, the divine mansion.

The idea of the Ashtayama Seva for the Kathak performance was most appropriate to depict the different Jhankis (tableaux) of Shrinathji, right from the Mangala Arati before sunrise, where mother Yashoda wakes up child Krishna to Shringar, Gwal, Rajbhog, Utthapan, Sandhya Arati and finally Shayan, with the Padas of Nand Dasa, Kumbhan Dasa, Sur Dasa and Krishna Dasa sung in the timely ragas of the particular prahar (period) of the day.

The live orchestra, with a commendable vocalist, was just perfect to match the expected devotion of the dancer but unfortunately Abhimanyu got entangled in showing off his technical virtuosity and all the Bhakti-Bhava evaporated with the whistles and hoots of his encouraging friends in the audience.

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Guru Pranam Utsav

Jyoti Srivastava, the dedicated Odissi danseuse and founder director of Vaishali Kala Kendra (VKK), has been organising Guru Pranam Utsav in memory of Guru Shrinath Raut for the past 30 years.

The annual festival was followed by a two-day Delhi Odissi Utsav in collaboration with Odissi International Forum, presenting several established and budding Odissi dancers from India and abroad at the Azad Bhavan Auditorium of the ICCR.

The Guru Pranam Utsav was joined this year with the internationally-acclaimed Padma Shri awardee Datuk Ramli Ibrahim and his Sutra Foundation from Malaysia. The opening Mangalacharan Ganga-Taranga was presented by the dancers from VKK and the Sutra Foundation together.

This was followed by a mesmerising Rageshree Pallavi by Ramli and his gifted disciple Geetika Sree. The soulful Abhinaya by Jyoti on Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi “Sakhi he…” was a solo treat before Ramli and Geetika Sree offered a duet delight of the Navarasas, based on anecdotes from the Ramayana. The Dash-Mahavidya, or 10 incarnations of Devi, was an impressive presentation by VKK before being joined by the Sutra Foundation for the concluding Moksha.