Nritya Sangam : confluence of four classical Indian dance forms.

 by Nandini Mandal, Mt. Lebanon, PA



Nritya Sangam, an Indian classical dance program organized last fall organized by Kamala Reddy’s Kala Niketan showcased four classical dance styles of India – Kathak (by Sudeshna Maulik), Odissi (by Shibani Patnaik), Kuchipudi (by Kamala Reddy) and Bharatanatyam (by Sruti Javali). The recital at the Shady Side Academy’s Fox Chapel campus on Saturday, December 3, captivated the nearly packed auditorium of ticket buying audience on that nippy evening.

 The Evening started with a Pushpanjali. Sruti set the mood with a prayer to Ganesha in Shankarabharanam followed by Shibani’s prayer to Brahma, the creator, rendered in Vaasanti. Reddy followed with a piece in praise of Vishnu with the music set in Shuddha-saveri. And Sudeshna paid obeisance to Nataraja and Durga, with the verse rendered in Mishra Kafi. Towards the end, the four dancers appeared together on stage giving the recital in their own distinct styles for the same melody (in Desh) and laya (rhythm) patterns as the finale to the Pushpanjali.

 Sruti Javali followed with her Shadakshara Kautuvam, choreographed by Priyadarshini Govind, in which the dancer elegantly used Madurai Muralidharan’s signature composition on Kartikeya. Shibani Patnaik‘s Varsha Varnalee next described the cyclical journey of water rising as dark clouds from the ocean; and moving over land, become rain drops and then heavy rains; the rain water flows in streams becoming gushing rivers softly merging into the ocean. And the ocean water again rises as clouds, with the whole sequence resembling the cycle of life itself. This Odissi piece was original in thought and presentation, while firmly rooted in its classical idioms. The first half ended with a collage of episodes from the life of Krishna.

 The second half opened with the Ananda Tandavam by Kamala Reddy in Kuchipudi style. Reddy presented Shiva Tandavam with crisp razor-sharp movements and freezes keeping the audience engrossed.

 This was followed by Sudeshna Maulik’s Kathak Swaroop, presenting the nritta aspects of Kathak. Expecting the traditional “idioms” of Kathak (as mentioned in the brochure) in this piece, I was kind of disappointed. The costume also was a little too innovative for the traditional nature of presentation of the other styles. Sticking to tradition would have fitted well, given that the audience got to see the four different styles together after a very long time.

 The seven dance styles of India – all based on the same essentials in the Natya Shastra — are yet unique not only in form and technique, but also in costume, presentation, musical repertoire. Sudeshna is a talented, young dancer trained by the likes of Guru Rani Karnaa, Pandit Birju Maharaj, and Sri Jaikishen Maharaj. Her sharpness of angik, or technique, was brilliant. So, expectations were more from her.

 The highlight of the evening was the final presentation of Samvad — a dialogue in laya in a blend of Tillana and Tarana. The dancers used elaborate geometric patterns to traverse the entire stage space. This presentation was the perfect culmination of dance and music for the evening. The conversation among the adavus of Bharatanatyam and arasas of Odissi, the tukras of Kathak and the jatis of Kuchipudi was spellbinding. The recital ended with the Shanti mantra. A perfect melbandhan.

 As we all know, nritya-geet-vadya (dance, music and rhythm) go hand in hand. Dance especially is dependent on lyrics, melody and rhythm. The music for the evening’s recital was simply mind-blowing. It is a dancer’s dream to dance to music of such richness. This being the case, except in one item, nowhere during the show, or in the brochure were the composers’ or musical ensemble’s details mentioned.

 For such an elegant and resourceful auditorium, the general lighting was also quite wanting.




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