Sydney Dance Festival 2019

Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts brought to Sydneysiders The Sydney Dance Festival of classical Indian Dance for the sixth time on 1 September 2019 at the Bryan Brown Theatre Bankstown. It was a six hour classical dance ensemble bringing together four artists from India, each an exponent at a specific classical dance form – Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak. The performances had a 20 minute respite between each. There were many guests of honour Goeff Lee, being one of them.

Odissi was performed by Sarita Mishra, a dedicated and experienced dancer trained in the padmabhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra style of Odissi. Sarita’s repertoire consisted of the Panchabhuta, Megh Pallavi, Ramayana (Shoorpanakha’s story) culminating in the Mahakali Stutee glorifying the universal energy of Shakthi.  Simply out Odissi is a series of lyrical movements with rhythm and grace. Sarita Mishra’s expression and dance of precise technique intertwined with grace was captivating.

This was followed by Bharatanatyam by Meera Sreenarayanan student of Acharya Kalakshetra Nirmala Nagaraj and Smt Indira Kadambi. A young and dynamic artiste from Kerala who was initiated into the art from a tender age of three, Meera is known for her subtle expressions and technical expertise. Meera commenced her repertoire with a Narasimha Kautvam. This was followed by the ‘Varnam’ set to raga Thodi and rupaka talam, which told the story of a courtesan of the last Maharaja of Thanjavur- Shivaji II, where the protagonist alternately goads and lures the King  into accepting her.

Meera’s abhinaya was excellent.  Continuing on, it was the very well known Rama bhajan ‘Sree rama Chandra Kripalu bhajaman’ dancing the timeless emotion of a mother in the pangs of separation from her exiled son. This was followed by a Kshetraya Padam – a story of gossip and envy, feelings which make us mere humans and inadvertently weave their way into everyday lives. The bharatanatyam repertoire culminated in the crisp and rhythmic Thillana, set to raga Thillang and Adi taalam. Meera’s  precision and crispness of technique and abhinaya was par excellence .

Then it was Kuchipudi by Avijit Das- a dancer who commenced his artistic journey in Bharatanatyam and then moved on to Kuchipudi under the tutelage of Manju Bhar. Focussing beyond the premise that dance is not a mere physical expression of tradition, but also matter of  self- identity. A high energy performer his repertoire started with the Pushpanjali and then the timeless story of Dasavatharam, set to ragamalika and Mishrachapu taalam.  Tharangam saw Avijit dancing  on the edges of a brass plate with accurate dexterity as he performed the story  of Krishna slaying the multiheaded Kaliya snake. In Keerthanam Avijit portrayed how language plays the role of bringing about universality in all living beings. The Kuchipudi recital culminated in the brisk, lively and rhythmic Thillana.

Kathak was performed by Rupanshi Kashyap trained under the renowned Kathak Guru Padma Bhushan Kumudini Lakhia. She is a very well travelled performer. Prior to commencing her dance Rupanshi explained the various  taals- cycle of beats- that is the basis of Kathak dancing. The repertoire began with a Devi invocation which had the technical kathak elements woven into the twelve beat time cycle. Following this was the Vilambit laya, a non textual pure danceform called  ‘nritta’ , allowing the audience to make their interpretations of the performance. Next was Madhya Laya which was based on ‘abhinaya’. Here Rupanshi took on the role of Maa Yashoda searching for Krishna. The repertoire ended with the Drut Laya which is again pure nritta. The fast paced footwork which takes many years of training was performed by Rupanshi to rhythmic and physical perfection, one of the essential components of kathak style of dancing,

The finale for the evening left the audiences spellbound and on a high note with all four dancers coming together to dance to the famous ‘Mokshamangalam’, for which all artists received a standing ovation.

One of the audience responses of the evening was – “words will not do justice to the sense of joy, peace and fulfilment I felt watching the four dancers .. I felt that they were dancing for me and only me”.