Ek Anant, the unending one, where one shows the potential of many, was a festival of solo dancing held at IIC in Delhi on the 21st and 22nd of November. It was a delight to watch solo performances laden with expressive abhinaya and graceful movements. Danseuses Priya Venkataraman and Shagun Bhutani were the curators of this unique two day festival on solo choreography in various dance styles. It was sponsored by Sudhaaya Foundation in collaboration with the IIC.
On the evening of the 21st, the first performer was Shagun Bhutani. Shagun is a leading exponent of Odissi and Seraikella Chhau. She has trained in Odissi under Smt Aloka Panikar and late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan. Shagun is the founder-director of Sudhaaya Dance Foundation. She began her performance with a Durga Stuti, and after that, she did an Arabhi pallavi, a composition of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. The nritta was executed with very graceful, fluid movements. Her hastas and footwork had an exactness about them.
Following that was an ashtapadi by Jayadeva, ‘Sakhi he keshi madana mudaram’, a composition of Guru Mayarao. The ashtapadi speaks of Radha telling her sakhi of her first meeting with Krishna, in a bower of leaves. Shagun went on to show Radha telling the sakhi that she is pained by Kamadev’s arrows, and so in the night, she dresses up, covers herself with an odhni, removes her nupur, puts out the lamp, and leaves the house for the nikunj to meet Krishna. In the bower of leaves, she has her first meeting with her lover. The memory of that meeting leaves her pining. She ended her performance with a composition by Shri Ramakant Rath.
Shagun did some impressive abhinaya. Accompanying her were Guru Banamali Maharana on mardal, Shri Ramesh Das on violin, Shri Parashuram Das on flute, Shri Pradeep Kumar Das on vocals, Shri Jeevan Das on sitar and Shri Niranjan Sahu on manjira and percussion support.
Dr Neena Prasad
Dr Neena Prasad has undergone training in Mohiniyattam , Bharatnatyam , Kuchipudi and Kathakali . She is the recipient of prestigious awards from the Kerala Sangeeth Academy and Madras Music Academy. Her gurus are Kalamandalam Suganthi and Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, Guru Adyar K Lakshman, Guru Vempati Chinnasatyam and Vembayam Appukkuttan Pillay.
Dr Prasad performed a padavarnam on the life of Draupadi. Draupadi, while walking in the woods with her husbands, falls into a ditch. No one comes to her aid and lying there alone, she remembers Krishna, her bosom friend. In despair, she writes a letter to him about her life and very strong emotions. She addresses him as her compassionate friend, her lifetime guide and savior. Pondering about her life, she remembers how she was born from a yajna and came to be known as the yajnaseni. In a swayamvar, where all other kings were confused and failed, it was Arjuna who targeted the eye of the fish and married her. It was a moment of pride for her, which immediately turned to ridicule when she was made to become the shared wife of the five Pandava brothers. Then she was made a pawn in the game of dice and lost her honour to Duryodhana. Krishna saved her from being derobed. Finally, she was accused of being the reason for the battle of Mahabharata. In her letter, she tells Krishna that she wishes to be a commoner and not a queen. She wants to play as a child, look young and beautiful to her husband, have children and grow old to become a grandmother. Neena’s mukhabhinaya for the piece was mesmerizing. Her expressive eyes conveyed Draupadi’s emotions movingly. The entire piece was a treat to watch. It was in raga Lathangi, adi talam. The artistes accompanying Neena were Madhavan Nampoothri on vocals, V. Veda Krishnan on mridangam, Annadurai on violin and Satheesh on edakka.
Explaining the literary background for the piece, she said, “My work is based on the popular Oriya novel Yajnaseni, a work of Jnanapeeth laureate Smt Prathibha Rai. This has been written for Mohiniyattam in a padavarnam format by Anchal Ravindran.” When one wondered whether she identified with Draupadi’s character to have been able to give such an involved performance, she said, “I worked out Draupadi’s point of view about her life in retrospective, as also the life she aspires for as a woman. I made it a point not to repeat the usual episodes taken by dancers. I portrayed her birth, illustrious marriage to Arjuna, her being shared among the brothers etc. I read the novel several times and conceptualized the character of Draupadi and the possibility to make her speak as a woman of contemporary times. The rest is up to an artist’s ability and her creative talents to transform the poetry to dance. I enjoy each of my creative works and I do what I enjoy. The rest is left to the rasiks.”
As for the place and importance of dance solos in nritya, she said, “Solos are the most essential presentation mode as far as classical dance forms are concerned. The concept of the repertoire and exploring the possibilities it presents proves its worth.”
Next was a Bharatnatyam performance by A Lakshmanaswami. He was initiated into Bharatnatyam by Guru Smt Veera Venugopal and Guru K.J. Sarasa at Sarasalaya. He performed a varnam. The story was about the heroine pining for her hero, who is a Thanjavur king. The heroine is struck by Cupid’s arrow and begs the hero to love her. Lakshmanaswami did a very sensual and feminine abhinaya. He was accompanied by Sudharama Vaidyanathan on nattuvangam, V. Veda Krishnan on mridangam and G. Raghuraman on flute. The vocals by Sudha Raghuraman were as melodious as ever.
Pics: Anoop Arora