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Tradition held aloft

It is that time of the year when we are welcomed with unexpected drizzles, showers and downpours by the nature even as we juggle to meet our deadlines and schedules. The inner urge to spot a dancing peacock amongst all this remains a distant dream. Well before you make conclusions, I did not spot a peacock dancing but definitely watched something that came as close to its grace and beauty and it was called ‘Vilasini Natyam’.

The event was the celebration of the birth anniversary of renowned poet and cultural historian Dr. Arudra, singularly responsible for the revival of Vilasini Natyam, so to say he christened it to the name and paved a way further. Padma Bhushan Swapnasundari has been the rightful torch bearer ever since, of this art form which traces the dance of the Telugu devadasis. Her relentless effort in the propagation of the art form has created a discrete visibility and sustainability to it. Some of her best senior disciples presented a glimpse of the traditional items of Vilasini Natyam on a rainy festive evening of 31st August at the Tyagaraja Gana Sabha.

As a first timer, watching Vilasini Natyam was a vivid picture of ‘Grace in Motion’. Be it the subtle nritta with a strong depth, the sculpturesque poses, the colour of emotions, the variety of items or even just the very stance of the dancer with one knee slightly bent, the dance form was a feast for the eyes for its sheer feminine and antique touch. Whoever thought of choosing Tyagaraja Gana Sabha to showcase this programme, the audience was traversed to the age of Devadasis and true divine dancing!

The recital commenced with a vibrant piece by all the dancers, while the Melukolupu, the waking up of the lord was shown beautifully (Usha, Pujita and Girija). Purvadhanashree continued with a ‘Choornike’ a shloka in salutation to Lord Venkateshwara followed by a piece akin to the Swarajathi in structure and format. The dancer, to be humble was an embodiment of ‘Vilasini’, the charm. Perfect nritta with beautiful movements of the torso coupled with hand positions which resembled the style of odissi, brisk footwork and elegant eye movements characterized her dancing to make it a treat to watch.

The ‘Pallaki Seva’ (Kreedathi Vanamali) performed by Dr. Anupama Kylash was a colourful affair with the palanquin, showing the dance during Bhramotsavam or Kalyanotsavam when the Lord is taken on procession.

A small ‘Mallari’ was followed by ‘Hecharika Paata’, a thorough abhinaya piece presented by Dr. Yashoda Thakore. The item had the protagonist showing a pitiful Lord Venkateshwara being disturbed by his wives. Dr. Yashoda just felt the entire piece and the rest was done. Her face talked through the lyric, with every moment of her abhinaya justifiably portrayed par excellence deciphering the meaning completely.

The programme concluded with a melodious ‘Madhuraashtakam’ celebrating the pleasant identity of Lord Krishna. Authentic music enhanced the reach of the performance, and so did the carefully done ‘Aaharya’ of the artistes. Bureaucrats from different Departments of the Government of A.P graced the occasion and called for the need to better support the effort. Guru Swapnasundari took the opportunity to stress on more youngsters taking to the art form. Well, if only youngsters attend programmes! (I had my own doubts as I entered the auditorium of having come to the right programme, for I could see only men everywhere except a few octogenarian ladies and countable young enthusiasts in the front rows!)