These days Karmasalas in dance with senior gurus have been ruling the roost. On the positive side, it can be said that beginners and aspirants are exposed to what the experienced gurus have to say about their journey in the particular field, besides also learning some nuances of their art form from them.
Bharatanatyam Dance Forum of Kolkata did yeoman service to the aspirants of Bharatanatyam, who attended the workshop of the Dhananjayans, who are legends in their field. With help of Andhra Association, the forum held a week-long Karmasala with the great gurus. Greatly enriched, the forum had a valedictory evening with the senior gurus from Chennai followed by an informal performance.
At the outset dancers from Andhra Association performed a couple of group piecec very enthusiastically but they have a long way to go as far as classical dance is concerned. Teachers from the Bharatanatyam forum showcased their own dance compositions, which were performed by their students.
Arko Bhattacharya’s committed students chose to perform a Shiva Stuti, Om Nama Shivaya followed by the Natesha Kauthuvam, Maha Deva Shiva Shambho. Bhattacharya himself is well versed in the Kalakshetra Vani being trained by Guru Khagendranath Barman.
Thankamuni Kutty had her students render a self-composed Jathiswaram in raagam Mohana. Sujatha Ramalingam trained in Kalakshetra, displayed a Varnam, which she has painstakingly composed and choreographed in raagam Dharmavathi and Taalam Adi, a Madurai Ramachandran Muralidaran composition.
Sophia Sar, Aishwarya Laxmi and Sukanya Chakraborty were the young learners who delighted the audience. In the Pallavi, Adi Adi Magizhndar Adiyavar Munivarum Tozhum the dance delineated Nataraja as the blissful lord, who has no beginning and no end and one who is delighted in dancing continually, and is venerated and worshipped by all devotees as well as ascetics.
In the Anupallavi, Tedi Tedi Tirumalum Adi Tera Tan Adi Mudi Tedi Nanmukhan Uzhalaikkandu, they explained even Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu were unable to find the starting and finishing point of the dance because it was continuous.
In the Chittaswara Sahityam, Ven Pirai Tigazh Amudam Tanai Magizhndu, the dance depicted the act of pouring the nectar contained in the white crescent moon into the kadamba forest located in the southern hemisphere of the city of Madurai where the praises for the lord were heard from all.
It was a stuti of unparalleled beauty. It was indeed amazing to see this piece of literature translated into brilliant dance language. Describing his dance, devotees said that Nataraja Shiva danced by alternating his feet in the silver theatre, overflowing with joy.
Charana Swara Sahityam praised the beauty and joyful dance of Nataraja, who lives in the mountains. The jati dance portions were simple and aesthetic. Anjana Guha Thakurtha’s and Hemamalini Suresh’ students danced the very popular Natanam Adinaar — a Gopal Krishna Bharatiyar composition — about the blissful dance of Lord Shiva in duet in raagam Vasantha in khandajati Ata Taalam. Strangely, almost all the dances of the evening were based on the Shiva theme.
At Sangeet Research Academy both Shantha and VP Dhanajayan, alumnus of Kalakshetra, Chennai, gave a lecture demonstration on abhinaya, which was open to all. Well-schooled in Bharatanatyam as well as Kathakali, acting and miming and its intricate nuances are naturally at their finger tips.
The Dhananjayans — recipients of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award as well as Padma Bibhushan Award from the Government of India — run their school Bharata Kalanjali in Chennai, which is in its 50thyear, with many an event in the pipeline.
VP Dhanajayan elaborated on the four kinds of abhinaya as laid down in Bharat Muni’s Natya Sashtra and showed through demos the importance of natya in dance. VP Dhananjayan categorically said that if there is no bhava there is no nritya and therefore there is bhava in Angika Abhinaya too. Natya said the Dhanajayans, included movements of the body with the accompaniment of music.
The lecture demonstration was an interactive session filled with interesting anecdotes. VP often asked students from the audience to come up and explain what he was doing. He spoke of the nine basic sentiments of human beings known as the Navarasa. However each rasa has thousands of shades.
Shanta Dhananjayan demonstrated abhinaya through Jayadeva’s astapadi from Geeta Govinda while VP explained each and every detail of her abhinaya.
How even the fragrance of sandalwood and cool rays of the moon disgusted Radha in the absence of Krishna was shown and explained. Body postures and body language in abhinaya is as important as facial expressions.
VP demonstrated the story of Nandanar, a devotee of Nataraja of Chidambaram. Nandanar belonged to a low caste and was hence not allowed to enter the temple town. Contrasting expressions of Nandanar and the Brahmin priest was tellingly depicted.
Sitting in SRA run by ITC, for his lecture demonstration, VP observed that if corporate houses spend a part of their profits on the arts, like ITC, citizens would be greatly helped. More such sessions with knowledgeable gurus is awaited.