Monday, 23 February 2015

For rasikas, a variety of dance forms

There are over 1000 people here to watch the recitals this Sunday evening.
And they enjoy a panorama of Indian dances.

The Odissi dancers from Bhubaneswar get a huge round of applause. Their recital is dramatic and tight and the audience loves it. Also, for many it is their first exposure to Odissi.

This team is led by Gayatri Ranbir and with her are Suraj Sahu, Niladri Mohanty, Gokul Sridas, Jyotirmayi Das and Manasi Maithi.

Groups like this one are well-rehearsed to present dance recitals in the 20-30mins package form and this evening, they do a good job and impress the audience.

The Natyanjali circuit provides for rasikas to enjoy a variety of classical dance forms they rarely get to see. A better promotion of the fest can bring in bigger audiences.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

6 pm to 4 am - dancers' busy circuit

The Natyanjali circuit can be a very punishing one. 

The 35-member group of guru Sheela Unnikrishnan started their first recital at about 6.30 pm one day and went to sleep at 4 am, after four recitals on the trot in one night.
And as they ended the last, they got a call from the Natyanjali team at Gangaikondacholapuram, asking if the group could perform at that heritage site.

Groups like that of Sheela work on a well-oiled machine and can carry off their shows under pressure. 

They look like professionals when they arrive at a venue. But there will be people who will argue that children must not be stretched.

Students of the Dhananjayans

This was a rare appearance - of the sishyas of the Dhananjayans of Chennai.

Their senior teacher and dancer Anusha Natarajan led ten young dancers for a medley of songs on lord Shiva. The team included Mahalakshmi B, Chitra Rajaraman, Subhaalakshmi, Sukanya P., Saradasree B., Meenakshi  N,  V. Bharagavi,  Srimathi, Sivadass and Brinda Kannamma.

India wins and there is time for a heritage tour

The India victory in the World Cup match was a Sunday treat and a break from our hectic Natyanjali circuit assignment.

There was also time to do a quick heritage trail on a bike. Activist Muthuswamy took use around - the outer fortification of the old Tanjore town, the oldest three temples here, the quarters of the four communities, a few fantastic houses, the lanes and by lanes, a huge water tank linked to four others including the one inside the Big Temple complex and houses of the Tanjoe Quartet lineage, the last of the devadasis and families who make the famed Tanjore plates besides the rather pitiful existence of the folk 

This is a trail that a group is developing; private walks are on. A more formal one will follow.

A yogi of a dancer, this young one from Neyveli

There are people or artistes you meet only at Natyanjali time. Big built Venkatakrishna, who looks out of a Telugu movie taps me and says hello. I cannot recall our meeting but his rewind helps.

He works for Neyveli Lignite Corpn in Tamil Nadu and is here with his wife, Anuradha who teaches Kuchipudi at the NLC township and will present a small group at the Natyanjali as its final recital for Saturday.

Venkatakrishna shows me video clips of his artistic career - being part of a Telugu drama tradition that runs for a few hundred years where artistes sing and act in shows that can run for hours in the night in the Andhra outback.

Two young artistes of Neyveli group impress. Nivedha twists and twirls with ease - later we get to know she has won dozens of medals in yoga events. Jhanavi got a long slot to do her solo, including dancing on the plate and on a pot.

Two groups from Malaysia

Sudha Damodharan from Malaysia is a familiar face in Chidambaram. A dance guru, her daughter studies dance at Annamalai Univ and volunteers at the fest there.
This year, Sudha flew in with a dozen dance students, some school, some college level.
"It is the Chinese New Year season back home so many girls wanted to come!', she told us. The group performed in Chidambaram and in Thanjavur.

The group shared the musicians it had assigned with another Malaysian group led by Shangar Krishnaswamy of Narthana Fine Arts.

Notes after the day's dances . . .

- The dances at the Big Temple do not get a huge audience. The never ending stream of school students out on a hurricane picnic that takes them to four destinations in 12 hours does not stop to look, maybe just stare.
But one evening the hosts brought a big group of junior students from the local state-run school for the hearing impaired and they got to enjoy a few recitals early in the evening.

-  In Thanjavur, a local promoter of herbal products serves guests herbal tea that is made of two dozen native ingredients. Served hot and in small cups it makes a good drink as the dew sets in by 9 pm. This is also one way in which the Natyanjali hosts rope in supporters.

- The Interpretation Centre ( located on the far south end of the campus) is a must check point for visitors, more so for dancers. The booth that plays a good film on the temple has been hibernating, we learn. Natyanjali hosts may want to share with dancers destinations to check out when they are here.

The Coimbatoreans are here too

Imagine 30 dancers on stage. or so we thought when the Coimbatore based artistes of Meenakshi Sagar landed up backstage. 
They took turns to perform and even then, it was a crowded stage!

A South Zone Cultural Centre officer said he was impressed with the dedication of this guru who gave up a lawyer's profession to turn to her first love and has been moulding many teens in classical dance.

A good word from arts managers helps you get into the circuit.