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Divine dance shows draw all-round appreciation

Posted October 5th, 2018, 10:52 AM IST

Divine dance shows draw all-round appreciation

The week that celebrated Gandhi Jayanthi was significant for two things! One saw the beautiful Shanthi Sutra - Threads of Peace, a dance drama by Kalashetra Foundation on October 1 and the other, a riveting, heartwarming tribute to an iconic couple in the dance world, Shanta Dhananjayan and VP Dhananjayan and to the institution started by them, Bharata Kalanjali.

Both events evoked a sense of belonging and patriotism, albeit in their own way. And both had house full participation by an audience who continue to celebrate good dance and sentiments.

Shanthi Sutra - Threads Of Peace, recalled the role of Mahatma Gandhi and Rukmini Devi Arundale in the lives of so many people through their thoughts, art and belief systems. They both stood for peace, ahimsa and the cultural heritage of this country and worked hard to keep the beauty of what is intrinsically India.

Creative and Artistic Director, Revathi Ramachandran, also Director, Kalashetra, has put together the best traditions of the institution and presented a show filled with good dancing, music and narration. With music direction by Sai Shankar, each of the songs represented one aspect of both these significant people, whose lives have inspired and pushed people to do their best and also to learn what they sought to give back to society. In the case of the Mahatma, devotion, patience and non-violence were paramount if one wanted to rise above and ennoble oneself. While Rukmini Devi gave back to the world, some of the best in aesthetics whether it is textiles, dance or music.

Beginning with Aaduraatai, the presentation went on to Mayer Deva, and Iyalena Ezhuthiyum. The magnificent composition, Vaishnava Janato, no matter where and how it is done, always brings a lump to the throat for its wistful quality and brings the Mahatma to life. The choreography was beautiful and done with the right amount of devotion. So was the Bhajore Bhayya eliciting long applause. The bhakti element filled the auditorium and gave reason for this dance production to exist at all. The episode from Tulsi Ramayanam with the boatman taking refuge at the feet of Lord Rama, was most poignant and memorable. Bharatha Desha Hithaya was another lovely piece as was the Vinda Maamalar, which had the entire lot of dancers on the stage.

V. P. Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan.
V. P. Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan.

A laser screen provided explanations of each scene and the theatre director and light design by Krishnakumar Balasubramanian (The Little Theatre - Chennai) did much to create the right ambience. The lights by Nambu Kumar and a chorus by Gopika, Krithika, and Priyanka complemented the commentary by the dancers at appropriate junctures. It must be said that the entire production was uplifted by the magnificent musical accompaniment of the entire orchestra. K. Sai Sankar and K. Hariprasad's singing was truly evocative- every song done with aplomb and contributed to the mood of the entire proceedings. K.P. Rakesh on the nattuvangam, KP Anil Kumar on the mridangam, T Shashidhar on the flute, N Ananthanarayan on the veena and Cherthala Sivakumar on the violin completed this ensemble.

There are many responsible for the choreography -- Jyolsana Menon, Shaly Vijayan, K. Mohanan, Nirmala Nagaraj, Nandini Nagaraj, J. Sooryanarayana Moorthy, Hari Padman, K. R. Lokesh Raj, and K.P. Rakesh. That it is team work, is evident from the number of people behind such a production.

At the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Auditorium, Harrington Road, the Swarna Samarohanam was something to be seen. Festive and full of goodwill, the entire day - Oct 2 - saw well-wishers, dancers, musicians and other art aficionados mill around the venue in what can be called a historic and record achievement.

In celebration of the 50 years of Bharata Kalanjali and an ode to a couple, who have raised several artistes across the globe, were the focus of the celebrations and even as the day began early with performances by established alumni, the Keli Kottu by Mattanur Sankaran Marars Ensemble was electrifying and thrilling. One almost expected vibrant dancers to jump out from behind the thick pillars as the rhythm of the drums turned intoxicating by the minute.

The atmosphere was made even more festive by the presence of stalls on the side with organic products, food and coffee. It just shows that art encompasses all good things and it provided a fair like feeling along with some really excellent dance performances.

Some of the luminaries of the dance world were present - not just as guests, but also as special people invited to share their joy and the journey along with the iconic couple Shantha and V P Dhananjayan, the people who sowed the seeds for this great institution. Vyjayanthimala Bali, Padma Subramaniam, Sudharani Raghupathy, Lakshmi Visvanathan, Chitra Visveswaran, Leela Samson to name a few.

The packed hall later saw the story behind Bharata Kalanjali, after a brief by sweet invocation by Sowmya Kumar Arjun and a welcome address by CP Sanjay.

Natya Tarangini showcased the journey through dance and music and a visual commentary on a screen on the side also recorded the milestones of the institution. Scenes from one of their best productions, the Jungle Book came up for presentation among many other significant productions over the years.

The Golden Jubilee Commemorative Address by Dr Vyjayanthimala Bali, the journey of the institution by VP Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan, a felicitation address by MA Baby and an awards ceremony completed the day and the celebrations.

(The writer is a music critic and culture enthusiast who has also been a journalist for decades)