Vriddhi: Akshamta se Sakshamta

Kamani auditorium was bedecked with flowers everywhere, with a beautiful flower rangoli at the entrance. The occasion was the pilot showcase of ‘Vriddhi – Rise Extraordinaire’. It was an attempt by the Kuchipuddi Dance Academy to reach out to both the young and elderly and bring them together. They had sought to bring together artists from various genres, styles, capabilities and backgrounds and give them a platform to ‘rise’ or ‘grow’. It was a star studded evening since all the great Gurus from all the styles of classical dance were present.

On the 25th of October, 2012, the cultural evening began with a performance by Sharanya Chandran [Bharatnatyam], Vidha Lal [Kathak], T Reddi Lakshmi [Kuchipudi], followed by a spectacular show by the differently abled artists who call themselves Ability Unlimited.

Vriddhi was hosted by Kuchipudi Dance Academy for upcoming dancers and those struggling to rise. The academy was set up in 1973 by Guru Jayaram Rao and his wife Vanashree. The event was organized by Vedabrata, their son. Vedabrata is freshly out of school and has joined college. This is what he said about organizing the event, “My father has not put up an event for the academy since 2005. Since they were keen to organize a festival and I had just finished an internship with a corporate company in the summer, they asked me to help. Since I came into the picture, I realized that the past 30 years, the academy did not even have a logo. So I asked my cousin, studying at the NID, to design one. And I approached an ex-student from my college to do the photography. It was all to be done on very professional terms. I wanted the younger people, the Gen X, to attend the concert. So I wanted it to be attractive to them. Next time, probably it could be a fusion of Carnatic music and the band Advaita.”

Sharanya Chandran

The first performance was by Sharanya Chandran. She is the daughter and disciple of Guru Geeta Chandran. She started learning at the age of 4 under her mother and Guru KN Dakshinamurthi. She has done solo and group performances on many platforms. For that evening’s performance, she did a composition ‘Natam Aditalam’ in raag Vasantha. It was an ode to Lord Shiva. Sharanya portrayed the various attributes of Shiva – his ‘jatas’, the snakes adorning him, his ‘damru’, the fire in his hand and the ‘Anandatandavam’. Her dance stances were perfectly executed. The cross legged stance and the leg lifts were immaculate. This was followed by ‘Tillana’, a pure dance piece. It involved complex body movements with hands, feet and eye movements. The precision of her movements and completeness of each stance were magnificent. Finally, she did a ‘vandana’ of Lord Krishna – ‘Gopal Madhav’. The performance held the audience in awe. She is tall, poised and smiling.

T. Reddi Lakshmi

The next performance was by T. Reddi Lakshmi. She has trained under Guru Seetha Nagajyothi and later under Gurus Jayaram Rao and Vanashri Rao. She has performed at eminent dance festivals and is the recipient of the prestigious Nritya Jayantika title. Her first piece was a ‘Javeli’ in raag Kannada. She portrayed the ‘Khandita Nayika’. The ‘Nayika’ dresses up and beautifies herself for her beloved. She hears knocking on the door, but since her lover is late; she is annoyed with him and shows her displeasure. The abhinaya was well executed. Next she presented a Shiva-Stuti – ‘Shiva Tarangam’ in raag Mallika. Lord Shiva, the ‘Gangadharaya’, ‘Chandrachuda’, ‘Sachidananda’, smeared in ‘dhool’, ‘Nandi’ as his vehicle, is worshipped through dance by portraying all his attributes. Lakshmi then danced with her feet on the edges of a plate. Her balancing was flawless and it was the high point of her performance. She concluded with the ‘Shanti-stotra’.

Vidha Lal

The next performer of the evening was Vidha Lal. Vidha is the disciple of renowned Guru Shrimati Gitanjali Lal of the Jaipur gharana. Vidha is very talented and a multi-faceted dancer. She is empanelled with the ICCR, has performed widely and has been awarded the Sri Krishna Ganasabha endowment award 2010. She also has a Guinness World record in her name for most number of spins in a minute (103). Vidha looked stunningly beautiful in her white costume. Her first performance was titled – Harihara. As the name suggests, it was about juxtaposing Krishna and Shiva and drawing parallels between them. ‘Vanshidhara’, ‘Pinakadhara’, ‘Giri Goverdhandhara’, ‘Gangadhara’, ‘Damrudhara’, ‘Chakradhara’, ‘Vishdhara’, ‘Sudhadhara’, ‘Mukutdhara’, ‘Jatadhara’, ‘Bhasmadhara’, ‘Kusumdhara’, ‘Peetamberdhara’, ‘Baagamberdhara’, ‘Nandidhara’, ‘Garuddhara’, ‘Kailashdhara’, ‘Vaikunthdhara’, ‘Ramapati’, ‘Umapati’. It was a virtuoso composition, enunciating the comparison between the two Gods, who according to mythology worship each other. One creates and the other destroys. Vidha not only portrayed the postures with elegance and grandeur, but also with perfection of technique. Her next piece was ‘tarana’, a pure dance piece in 12 and 16 beats. The music and the beats were melodious and Vidha’s footwork, hands, spins and expressions were captivating.

The final performers were very special and marked the culmination of the spirit of ‘Vriddhi’. ‘Abilities Unlimited’ is the brainchild of Guru Syed Sallauddin Pasha.

Guru Syed Sallauddin Pasha
 He is the father of Indian classical therapeutic theatre for persons with disabilities. His work with differently abled people has won him many awards and recognition, both nationally and internationally. The performance for the day began with a ‘qawwali’.

 The dancers were on wheelchairs and revolved on them for a ‘dervish’ dance. They performed Kathak-like steps on their wheelchairs. Next was a Bharatnatyam piece by hearing and speech impaired girls. Though these dancers could not hear the music and beats, yet they maintained perfect rhythm and coordination. Following this, the dancers did a yoga and Bharatnatyam fusion.

They performed various yoga postures which included balancing head stands on their wheelchairs and revolving on their hands or balancing on each other’s shoulders.

 Finally, they did a composition on the ‘Geetopdesh’. The wheelchair of the dancer posing as Arjun had a chariot designed on it and Lord Krishna danced on his crutches.

 To depict Krishna blowing on his ‘panchajanya shankha’, the dancers did a beautiful formation. ‘Yada yada hi dharmasya’ – With the recitation of shlokas from the Geeta, stunning formations were done by the dancers. To depict the ‘dashavatar’, the dancers gestured to depict each of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. One very difficult formation was – one person sitting on the chair, the second one hanging in front with his legs intertwined to the waist of the first and then lifting his torso. Words fail to explain the energy, beauty and complexity of the entire performance.