Sonal Mansingh was among the first few artistes to offer full support to SPIC MACAY, the movement started by Kiran Seth nearly four decades ago to bring awareness of Indian classical music and culture among youth. Inaugurating Virasat-2016, the ambitious annual Festival of SPIC MACAY, at IIT Delhi, Sonal opened her captivating Odissi with Devi Stuti as Mangalacharana, invoking Saraswati and the Dash-Mahavidya causing cosmic creation. Aaj Ki Kanya was a crucial contrast from the Devi of yore to the present day women suffering social injustice and the gender bias. The inspiring presentation, starting with "Main Sonal hoon, Main Salma hoon…Main hoon aaj ki Kanya", was like beckoning women to challenge every obstacle that suppressed their inner strength.
Devi Navarasa, the next piece, explored the nine Rasas or emotions from Shringaar to Shanta, through the various life situations in Parvati’s mythological story, concluding with Devi Parvati blessing the devotees in her Abhay-Mudra. Sonal’s well-trained disciple Aashish, assisting her in dance, also won applause from the audience.
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Brahmananad, presented at the Stein auditorium of the India Habitat Centre was an impressive production of Sandhya Purecha. The arresting choreographic ensemble was based on rare Marathi Abhangas written by lesser known women saints of Maharashtra like Janabai, Sooryabai, Veenabai and Muktabai. The Nritya Kriti most aesthetically brought out the metaphysical relation between these women saints, with Vitthala, their Ishta Deva, portrayed through various interesting incidents of their devotional lives. Their journey towards attaining Brahma-Anand through their Abhangas, the devotional poetry in conversation with Vitthala, and the moving Abhinay of Sandhya underlined their passionate devotion that went beyond the boundaries of human and divine forms.
Although Sandhya’s innovative choreography at times transcends the conventional vocabulary of Bharatanatyam to express the emotional content of their passionate Madhura Bhakti; Brahmanand was a mesmerising production. Manoj Joshi has tried to compose music to match the choreography but the male and female voices lacked total tunefulness, even the Flute did not reach accurately to the notes of higher octave, hence the music at times created a "Kansura" or out of tune effect, which was the weakest aspect of this well conceived, creatively choreographed and sensitively directed production of Sandhya Purecha.
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Manjari, conceived, choreographed and presented by Divya Ravi at the Epicentre Gurgaon, was a thematic Bharatanatyam Margam revolving around different Flowers. Groomed under Saundarya Srivathsa in Bharatanatyam for over 15 years, Divya is a trained Carnatic vocalist too. Manjari, the well- researched and sensitively-conceived Bharatanatyam Margam by this versatile artiste deals with the rare and often ignored stories about the mythological, philosophical and spiritual significance behind flowers.
Opening with "Vikasita", the blossoming flower-like Alaripu, presented in a 13 beats cycle set to Sankeerna Jaathi Triputa Tala; Divya depicted the process of a bud blossoming into a flower. Absorbing the energies of the five elements, the Panch Mahabhoot, namely earth, fire, wind, water and space, the petals open out to the "Ashtadik", invoking each one of the eight directions.
The fragrance of Padma or lotus, an epitome of purity and divinity, made the theme for a full-fledged Varnam in Raga Malika set to Adi Tala. According to the Padma Purana, Virinchi or Brahma created the entire universe from a dazzling golden lotus. The human body has seven chakras or energy centres, each of which is represented by a specific number of lotus petals. The crown chakra, or the Sahasrara chakra, is represented by a thousand petalled lotus, determining one’s level of spiritual evolution.
Parijata, the next flower, was presented in the form of a Javali in Raga-Malika set to Misra Chapu Tala. Divya portrayed the well-known story of Satyabhama, often seen in Kuchipudi as Bhama-Kalapam, with great dramatic appeal. This was followed by Ketaki, the fragrance of pride in a Padam in Raga-Malika Adi-tala, where Ketaki was intoxicated by her own fragrance losing all sense of self-control. Divya concluded her mesmerising recital with Lathangi, based on Lathangi Raga, Khand-Chapu Tala. The credit for the original music score and lyrics goes to D S Srivathsa and for rhythmic compositions to Srihari Rangaswamy, that enhanced this unique theme and the dance.