It is rarer occasion to see four classical styles in one day in Sydney. Whilst some bemoan that this is too much dance in a day, for many others it is slowly becoming a Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts [MAPA] special each year.
MAPA is gradually harnessing and developing its own cult followers, much to the pride and satisfaction of its organisers and sponsors, who are working hard each year laying the foundation brick by brick for a stupendous dance festival.
This year many flocked to see Sanatani Rombola, Odissi; Praveen Kumar – Bharathanatyam; Sailaja Narayanaswamy Kuchipudi; Gauri Diwakar Kathak at the Bryan Brown Theatre in Bankstown NSW on the 7th April 2018.
Sanatani Rombola, originally from Italy, has been fortunate to live across Italy and India for many centuries, learning and imbibing the difficult artform of Odissi from her Guru Smt Sujatha Mohapatra. Her dance vocabulary was exquisite in formation and movement.
Commencing her performance with a Vishnu Vandana, Mangalacharanam, Sanatani proceeded to blossom in Nritta in the Aaravi Pallavi. Set to Raag Aaravi in Chaturasra Ekatali the composition was interspersed with jathis that became progressively faster and complicated. The choreography displayed the genius mastermind of Pandit Bhubaneshwar Mishra with the emotional pulse provided by the accompanying music composed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra himself.
An established Pallavi, which many would have seen being performed by many Odissi dancers, Sanatani established her command of body and rhythm exceptionally. The focus of the Pallavi is in the fluidity of body movement and perfect positioning of the torso, hip along with accurate footwork. It is essential to maintain an almost continuous aramandi, (which many bharathanatyam dancers would have looked on enviously), whilst holding the three fold positioning of the body. Add to this a multilayered rhythm centered which gradually increases to a crescendo, you have a physically challenging act, that many would swoon at. Sanatani performed the pallavi jathis to near perfection.
The command over her repertoire continued in the pieces she performed later, Jaya Mahesha extolled ‘Siva’ one who plays with the power of death and poison. Whilst portrayal of Siva failed to capture its omnipotence as Sanatani tippy toed failing to somehow capture my imagination, there were relatable moments of breathtaking sculpturistic poses as Sanatani moved to the sounds of the pakhawaj showing a dancing siva with his dumroo. Sanatani concluded her performance with Moksha and a prayer to Goddess Mother Devi in Raag Bairagi set to Ek Tali. Her performance can only be described as being altruistic, maintaining the grammar and form of Odissi.
Praveen Kumar, an accomplished bharathanatyam dancer and an ICCR panelist is the student of Narmadha and the esteemed Prof CV Chandrashekhar. His performance was spellbinding in its intensity, at the same time somehow exuded an aura of compulsive restraint which gradually blossomed as he progressed through his performance.
His well chosen pieces kept my interest from one moment to the next. Starting with a Shivanjali, Praveen left his audience under the glare of Shiva’s third eye as he stood balancing on one foot.
For the main piece of his performance, Praveen chose a modern Pallavi written by Dr Shatavadhani R Ganesh set to music by Janhavi Jaiprakash and sung brilliantly by R Raghuram to the words “Anupama Maithreya Madhurya Nidhiye, Janamutha Madhava, Murahara Hariye“, composed in the language of Kannada in Raga Hindolam set to Adhi Talam (Rende Kalai).
Praveen Kumar explored the various stages of the relationship between Arjuna and Krishna culminating in the spiritual dictum provided by Krishna to Arjuna in the Kurukshetra. Replete with expression, angular adavus and iced with jathis to crisp and accurate nattuvangam (also by Praveen Kumar) the pallavi progressed to a double speed steamy charanam in “Manadalavallavane sadha sundarane“, the music stopping completely to a stillness during the time when the wisdom was imparted and proceeding once again into the battlefield. The pallavi was decidedly the crowning glory of the Festival. Praveen Kumar’s captured the attention of his audience with his own unique style and explorations.
Praveen Kumar’s innovative topic for the next piece captured my interest further as he explored the delusion of unreturned love from the perspective of the male – Nayaka, as the melody of Raga Mukhari nurtured his forlorn expressions in a lament in ‘Ososi’ set to Mishra Chapu.
Turning to humour and the wily ways of Krishna as he manages to entice and cajole His consort in a Javali composition of Mysore Vasudevachar, in Raga Kannada, Praveen Kumar also stole the hearts of young and old in the audience. His recital concluded in a Thillana in Ragam Sumanasa Ranjani set to Adi Thalam. The thillana was brilliantly executed through nimble footwork with accompanying mudras. Praveen Kumar stands tall in the style he is establishing for himself where shades of his own mingles with the style of his guru and stalwart CVC.
Sailaja Narayanaswamy, the Kuchipudi dancer for the evening, commenced her performance depicting the dancing Shiva exploring the episode of Manmadha Dhanam in Swati Tirunal’s composition Shankara ShriGiri set to raga Hamsanandhi. This was followed by the well known Ashatapadi also in Ragam Sumananesa Ranjani in ‘Chandana Charchitha’, Sailaja brought to like the beauty of Krishna as he surrounded by charming gopikas.
This was followed by the delightful portrayal of Krishna as a cowherd boy who adorns the peacock feather on his crown set to a ragamalika. Sailaja continued her evening performance with Mahishasura Mardhini set to Ragam Revathi where she attempted to bring to life the power and strength of the Goddess, the slayer of Mahisha. Whilst portrayal of the descriptive beauty of the Goddess, Sailaja’s performance was more shringara dominant and less about Her powerful presence.
Gauri Diwakar, student of Jai Kishan Maharaj and Aditi Mangaldas saw a mix of two different styles fused in one performance. Commencing with a Ganesh vandana which is typical to any Kathak perforamance Gauri proceeded to a vilambit lay shudha sarang in a slow rendition with Uthan Aamad and Paran aamad, rhythmic expressions with nimble footwork.
This was followed by a Madhya Laya piece composed by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan to the poetry of Lal Balbir in Nayaki Kanara where she presented Tukras accompanied by significant coverage of the entire stage and circular revolutions to rhythm. This piece is nritta dominant.
She then proceeds to explore the infinite love of a Nayika as she yearns for the presence of her lover, in the spring amidst blossoming flowers and flying bees. She captured the bhava of the composition in ‘Naino Ke Dore Laal Gulal Bhare’ of poet Suryakant Tripathi who writes with the pseudonym Nirala.
Gauri used spoken word to intersperse her dance with Nirala’s beautiful poetry in Hindi. She then continued to dance as the music of the same recited verse composed by Samiullah Khan filled the auditorium. An interesting blend of pirouettes, movement, expression and footwork brought the culmination of the evening to a resounding finish with a Tarana in Raag Kedar composed by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan.
The evenings programme was presided by Indian Consulate General Vanlalvawna, Geoff Lee Member for Parramatta and supporters and sponsors.