Photos: Lalitha Venkat
December 18, 2008
The second morning
of the Natya Kala Conference unfolded with an avant-garde interpretation
though an abstract dance language of Anita Ratnam. She simply divided her
dance presentation into three brief parts. From a gestural Bharatanatyam
narrating Ahalya's story to an abstract body language dance piece which
leaves an open end for the audience to imagine, Anita culminated with a
rather arresting choreography which has a dialogue (excerpts from Pudumai
Pittan's story of "Shapa Vimochanam"). Wearing grey and black, Anita positioned
herself amongst a cluster of rocks on stage and with arresting yet subtle
expressions, she chose to merge into the stone once again. As though in
a silent and moving revelation and revolution. Anita's presentation of
'Ahalya, the flawless stone' was indeed an example of restrained and yet
effectual way of expression. "...as stone she could be among the elements..."
In this Ahalya, Anita immortalizes a woman’s heart and her footing. Anita
is my favourite contemporary dancer, who once and again surprises in her
evolving artistic journey.
dancer Anita Ratnam shows the way... a way where an iconized Ahalya evolves
out of the established fable to a horizon hitherto unimagined.
a poet's imagination
poetic presentation titled 'Sita - a spectrum' had her reading out poems
written by different poets from different periods that actually depicts
how Sita has developed in their (poets') imaginations. With intermittent
singing by herself and vocalist Sangeeta Shivakumar, Gowri saw through
the many poets' eyes, parallels in other women from our legends like Shakuntala,
Meera, Draupadi and the like.
by the Mohiniattam dancer Neena Prasad highlighted the humble heroine of
Ramayana. Neena settled on Malayalam folklore to unwind Sita's journey
in the epic. Interestingly Neena illustrated the heroine as belonging to
Nature… her desire to beget the golden deer leads to a mistaken fate...
her nostalgia for the life she spent in the forest during the exile also
seems to put the seed of doubt in Rama yet again... she who is abandoned
in the jungles with life growing in her womb, brings up the twin boys in
the hermitage before she unites into the Nature that she actually belonged.
Neena emoted Sita. She did stimulate the audience's heart with a poignant
show of the day saw story tellers headed by Manik Borbayan who had come
all the way from Assam. The Ojah Pali, a folk narrative song and dance
was thoroughly enjoyable. The Southern artists and connoisseurs indeed
had a treat in this unique form of rendering of Ramayana. Simplistic in
language, enthusiastic in presentation backed by echoing song, the great
epic seemed to have donned a different fabric of culture. They sang, danced,
narrated as though drowned in an aura of bliss that transferred itself
on to the onlookers!
conferences always stimulate a dialogue and interest among the artists.
Ananda has done a commendable job in imagining a theme for the present
conference...in fact when I convened the show way back in 1995- 96, I did
come out with the idea of "Purush" in dance. Personally I feel if the presentations
oriented more upon the Naatya or dancing and dramatizing of Ramayana than
getting diverted to the dialogue on the epic itself, it would have meant
- V P Dhananjayan,
"I dance abroad
for a foreign audience and wonder how they relate to and enjoy my presentations.
I could understand the same today when I witnessed a performance which
had a different language and style that I could not follow and yet could
relate to the emotive graces and the effects it releases in your hearts.
Well... the audience needs to be as sympathetic as the soulful performances..."
Bharadvaj, Kuchipudi/Bharatanatyam dancer
Sagar is a cultural commentator and critic based in Hyderabad.