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The Aeon of Grace!

(Image courtesy: Lasyakalpa Foundation for Arts)

"The purpose of art is the gradual lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."
- Glenn Gould, Musician

When artistic indulgences stand at an altar ensuing to cultural tenets and embarking towards cultural evolution, they define a community’s unique characteristics. ‘Noopuraraavam’ defined one such artistic indulgence in its inaugural conduct yesterday as a part of a 3 day premier Kuchipudi dance festival. It would not be wrong to say the organizers (Lasyakalpa Foundation for Arts) traversed to the role of preceptors to a fraternity which witnessed what a well researched and introspective attempt would be made of.
Ravindra Bharathi wore a true aesthetic look from its very entrance – a clear message of calling for the art appreciator alone and in turn affirming them on high classic content. From its very invite that was circulated, the festival prepared the audience of a showcase of three distinct genres of Kuchipudi – work of erstwhile Kuchipudi stalwarts in films, solo format of the form and its flagship bearer – the dance drama.

Yet it is that element of exclusivity in presentation that struck an appeal. A documentary feature on Vedantam Raghavayya a renown Kuchipudi Guru and his work in the Telugu films during the early 20th century characterized academic work. The film was apt to the extent of illustrating the use of core vocabularies of Kuchipudi in films. One would wonder the righteousness of claims being made today of innovating concepts of choreography (both group and solo) and adherence to tradition. The next time it is made, spare a thought and get back to history and documentation!

Katyayani Thota

The aspect of consumption here would be the importance given to the classical idiom in the films back then when an entire item of ‘Dasavatara’ finds place as a part of it. The sequence of the heroine in a film being taught a ‘Kshetrayya’ padam in the ‘Padartha’ format and disciplined to adopt the right usage of ‘Hastas’ and expressions is definitely a high point in the history of the art form!

Vedantam Raghavayya’s impeccable sense of molding classical content to the populist genre was best seen in the group choreography inserted into the film ‘Swapna Sundari’. The sculptor in him was evident in ‘Tyagaiah’ where young girls danced to perfect coordination also signalling their institution into classical dance and the value it brought by dancing in films. The content, apart, the very effort of packaging the work into a documentary is a paramount step towards archiving and educating, and kudos for that!

One characteristic feature of Kuchipudi that the art form has retained is its adaptiveness to cultural and social sensibilities. Katyayani Thota brought to the fore this ingrained element through a crisp and adept solo presentation. The Swati Tirunal composition ‘Sree Ramana Vibho’ was laced with crafty choreography by Sri D.S.V Sastry supported by complimentary execution on the part of the dancer. The ‘Gati Vinyasas’ adopted in every repetition of the ‘Anupallavi’ ‘Srita Palana’ brought uniqueness in true sense and not for the sake of it making the experience highly consuming!

Ms. Thota followed with an item full of transcendence taken from the Kamakshi Navavarna Kritis of Uttukadu Venkata Subbaiah. The journey from idea to execution is a rather tough one, and nothing like it when completed progressively. The choreographer- dance duo showed their work in absolute tandem in this piece in all the ‘Vistarams’ - be it Devi assuming in herself the power of ‘Devas’, or the simple depiction of ‘Chaturbhuja’ by gracefully showing it using ‘Dhola’ hastas (rather than the verbatim padartha that is done all the time!) or the portrayal of a drunk ‘Bhandasura’ in the climax. The dancer deserves full credit of imbibing disciplined training of none less than an artisan himself – D.S.V Sastry. The orchestra and lighting worked at their technical best to give the outcome. The ‘Aharya’ of the dancer could have been better enhanced with extended hair do for a stage like Ravindra Bharathi.

Dance Drama : Mohini Bhasmasura

Sri Hari Ramamurthy championed the grandeur and extravagance of the dance drama format with ‘Mohini Bhasmasura’. The attention to detail that he exhibited through his product spoke high of his caliber and experience as one of the long time performers under none other than Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. That classical dance presentations demand certain extensions over the main story line can be contented against the contextual appropricacy. But.But the choreographer here used the grammar of the form with finesse, what with his well trained dancers standing up to the occasion.

Some sequels flavoured prolongation. Like the dancing in the court of ‘Vruttasura’, since after a point ‘Vruttasura’s character had a restricted role of only accepting his praise by the dancers and the ‘Dasavatara’ in the beginning could have been shorter. Be that as it may, it was camouflaged by a buoyant Shiva-Parvathi duo and Sri Hari Ramamurthy himself as ‘Vruttasura’ in an incredible display. Some finer elements deserve a mention here – The lyrical beauty of making dialogues simple yet effective, ‘Vruttasura’ questing for Shiva had classicality rather than a casual interpret, the build up to the climax of the dance competition and the very handling of the competition without using cliche Jathis!

An engrossing felicitation function concluded the first day with Smt. Manju Bharghavi and Prof Anuradha Jonnalagadda talking on the need of such festivals and the uncompromising efforts that go in the procreation of such ventures.