One of the classical dances of India, BItaratanatyam could well be the oldest classical dance. It is classical, because it follows texts ? or may be the texts followed it. We are talking here of over 2000 years of cultural history. In fact with its first reference in a text dating back to over 2000 years, Bharatanatyam can undoubtedly claim unmatched antiquity.
The dance certainly has close linkages with old sculpture and painting, and with ancient texts, which give it a quiet authority, without impinging on the expansive creative spaces it needs.
The dance embraces the most abstracted and evolved concepts of human thought - enunciated in poetry, arranged to melody and framed in the perimeter of rhythm. Visually it moves between the stillness of stylized lines and the voluptuous volumes of sculptures from the southern areas, which fall in the modern Indian States of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
But Bharatanatyam today has the world as its stage - all parts of India, and most parts of the world, resound to the sound of the ?Sollus, the mnemonics of Bharatanatyam - the aide ? memoire by which, for generations, students of Bharatanatyam have been taught their movements.
The sense of joy, which lights up the face of the dancer, which the Shastras describe as Paramananda, stems from the fact that the dancer calls upon the blessings of virtually the entire pantheon of Hinduism.
The kernel of its attractiveness lies in its ability to establish conduits, like high tension electricity wires, through which emotions can flow, and magnetize hearts that are unknown strangers to each other, even from a distance.
Its concerns depict our times, trials and tribulations. It has moved, from only myth and mildness, to issues and arguments, reflective of an organic process, Its language has evolved, its grammar and syntax is different, and its look has changed considerably.
Rooted in pristine lndianness, Bharatanatyam is qualified by the spirit of the sacred, and celebrates values that are intrinsic eternal to the Indian civilization. Like the history of civilization, or rivers that nurtured them, the dance form flows through the ages.
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam
Born to illustrious parents, pioneer film director and freedom fighter K. Subrahmanyam and Smt. Meenakshi Subrahmanyam a talented lyricist and composer in Sanskrit and Tamil Padma had a full course of training in Bharatanatyam under Guru Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai and then undertook research linking theory and practice. She has Masters Degree in Music and her Doctoral thesis is on ?Karanas of Natyashastra?. Her eventful career is marked with lot of National and International recognitions Akademi award, Rajeev Gandhi award for National integration, Kalidas Samman from government of M.P. Honorary Fellow of the Academy of General Education, Manipal and Kalaimamani ward from Tamil Nadu. On the international front she has received the Soviet Land Nehru Awards and is the first dancer to be the recipient of Fukuvoka Asian cultural Prize from Japan for bringing about unity in Asia. She was asked by Shri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati Swami of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham to design a set of 108 dance sculptures of Shiva and Parvati which are placed in Ultra Chidambaram Nataraja temple at Satara in Maharashtra. Il recent study has shown an amazing similarity between the sculptures and 9th Century Karanas sculptures found in the temple of Prambanan at Java in Indonesia.
Seeta Kalyaanam Padma has revived the old Banika style of story telling which is the art of mono acting through dance. She used this style to depict Seeta Kalyanam. This theme is a poetic confluence of streams of creativity which has flown across India. Padma uses verses from poet Kamban in Tamil, Saint Tulsidas in Hindi, Saint Tyagaraja in Telugu along with traditional wedding songs in Tamil.
Lakshmi Vishwanathan was initiated into Bharatanatyam by Shrimati Kaushalya of the Vazhuvoor School. Subsequently she learnt under Ganeshan Filial and Sankar and finally came under the tutelage of Vidwan Kanchipuram Ellappa Filial. She also received training in Carnatic music and learnt Padams from T. Mukta. From Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam she received training in Kuchipudi.
Lakshmi Vishwanathan has been performing in ?India arid abroad since 1970s and is a notable artist specializing in abhinaya. She is also a choreographer, teacher and writer.
A recipient of the title Nritya Choodamani, Lakshmi Vishwanathan has been convenor of the Natya Kala Conference in Madras for two years. She has also conducted dance workshops in Europe and the United States. She has authored the books ?Bharatanatyam: The Tamil Heritage?, ?Kunjamma: Ode to a Nightingale? and ?Women of Pride: The Devadasi Heritage? and has directed a documentary ?The Poetry of Dance?.
Tevaram - Kunittapuruvam : Lakshmi begins with her interpretation of a Tevaram hymn. These Shaiuite verses sung in the Shiva temples of the south are full of poetic beauty. ?Kunittapuruvam? in Ragam Kambodhi describes adoringly the delicate and majestic splendour of Nataraja?s forehead, his smiling lips, the sacred locks, the coral like complexion and his stance with the raised left leg. One who feasts on this sight, gets enough compensation and reward for being born as a human being, says the poet.
Padam - Ninnu joochi : Lakshmi follows with a delightful Padam of Kshetrayya ?Ninnu jooda Galigenee? in Ragam Punnagavarali, which portrays the feelings of a wife when the ardently loved husband comes home after ?four or five moons? as she says, addressing him. Only the night before had she got up from a dream with her upper garment soaked in tears at not being able to find him. Having lived with no pleasures during his absence, pining away, she reaffirms that he alone is the centre of her world.
Javali - 1 Jaanaro : The next interpretative presentation, again based on Sringara rasa but in a totally different mood shows a woman who is confused with the passion and joy of overwhelming desire. ?Jaanaro ee mohamu sahimpalene? set to Raga Khamas has the heroine confessing her inability to know how to express these feelings that have overcome her. ?The arrows of Manmatha have assaulted me and I am in the throes of a desire I am unable to understand or control,?
javati - 2 Itu Sahasamulu : ?ltusahasamulu? in Saindhavi Ragam brings forward yet another situation in Sringara rasa, and here the mood is of a young Devadasi yet to be initiated into the experience of a full fledged relationship with a man. Reassuring the Lord who is making advances, she pleads for some more time, with the promise that she would be in the near future the ideal partner f or him.
Leela received her training as a dancer in Kalakshetra and was deeply influenced by Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale and her philosophy.
Her seemingly understated delineation conceals a powerful and inspired inner resource, which gradually unfolds before the viewer. She is a virtuoso performer who enjoys the reputation of being a dancer with precise nritta and sensitive abhinaya.
Leela is known to be a dedicated teacher who integrates the traditional practice and theory of the dance with broader perspectives on fitness, attitude, awareness, technique and methodology. Leela is the recipient of Sanskriti Award, Padmashri , Nritya Choodamani and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
Leela holds the responsibility of serving as the Director of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai.
Navarasa : Leela Samson begins with ?Navarasa, based on the nine main moods portrayed in dance. Largely abstract, the context when emerging in fleeting narrative glimpses, pertains to situations in the Ramayana evoking the different moods in the hero. Sringaaram( love), Veeram (valour), Kaarunyam (compassion and sorrow), Adbhutam (wonderment), 1-iaasyam (teasing laughter), Raudram (anger) Vibhatsam (disgust and rejection), Bhayam (fear) and Shaantam (equanimity) are the nine moods. Highly internalized, these states? of-being reveal the inner dancer for mere technique cannot communicate these feelings without total involvement on the part of the performer. Each mood is set to music in an appropriate melodic mode or Ragam.
Excerpt from Kumarasambhavam Leela next presents an excerpt from Kalidasa?s ?Kumarasambhavam? - the scene pertaining to the wedding of Shivo to Parvati. The dancer begins with homage to the statue of Shiva and to the Himalayas his abode. Parvati is the daughter of Himavan. Shiva majestically setting aside the rich garments presented by the bride?s parents, steps out in all dignity leading the marriage procession, his ash covered body clad in tiger skin and necklace of skulls and serpents. As he and Parvati are joined in wedlock, the Gods and Apsaras from the Heavens watch and bless this glorious scene. There is a delicate reference to a ceremonial ritual when Parvati and Shiva are asked to look at the star Arundhati in the North Pale - the star symbolizing the steadfast nature and everlasting bond of marriage. Set to Raga Vibhas the last part of the presentation is in Yaman.
V.P.Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan
The calibre of the Dhananjayans steals the thunder with their novel ideas that they bring to their productions and presentations through a unique repertoire that they developed.
V.P. Dhananjayan received a scholarship at Kalakshetra to study Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Mridangam and Music. On the other hand, Shanta was trained in Bharatanatyam and Music apart from other subjects for nearly a decade. They believe that whatever they have been able to achieve today is due to the painstaking meritoring of their Gurus Rukmini Devi Arundale and Chandu Panicker.
Dhananjayans excel as amazing teachers, choreographers, and authors other than being outstanding dancers.
Their noble presentations got them prestigious honours like Sangeet Natak
Akademi Award, Padma Bhushan, Kalaimamani, UNESCO Paris Medallion De Merit, Nritya Choodamani and Birla Foundation ward 2010.
Tiruppugazh This husband and wife duo has based the entire presentation on homage to Lord Kartikeya or Subrahmanya. Verses from Tiruppugazh, set to Ragam Shanmukhapriya are rendered as an invocation to the six headed Lord who married Valli. The One who taught the great Pranava Mantra Om, He is the rider on the peacock, and the son of Shankara or Shiva.
Shabdam : Shanta next presents a Shabdam in Ragamalika, built round the persona of Kartikeya. He is first visualized as the child, the adorable toddler I Kumara. Next he is described as the smiling one who comes riding the peacock. He is also the trickster who plotted along with his brother Ganapati (who comes as the elephant to frighten Valli), while He himself took on the guise of art old man- all to win over Valli. Set to different Ragas, the Shabdam treats Abhinaya more in the narrative story telling than interpretative mode.
Padam - Endu Pizha : V.P. Dhananjayan next presents a Padam in Malayalam ?Endu pizhai nyan seidu?, in Todi. Confronted by the rejection of the weeping, angry state of the woman he loves, the Nayak or hero wonders as to what fault he could have committed to reduce her to such a state. Thinking of their steadfast love and his complete absence of dalliance with other women, he is unable to understand what could have transpired to bring about this Khandita type of attitude from her. If only she spoke and told him what his fault was?
Kalanidhi Narayanan, through her performance, glues us some insights into the art of Abhinaya. She was the first non-devadasj to learn this art form and perform t on stage. She learnt this art form from Kannappa Pillai, Chinnayya Naidu and Mylapore Gauri Ammal. Drawing from the training she received from her Qurus and her own immense talent, Kalanidhi has given a new dimension to the art of Abinaya (mime or expression).
Her career path was quite unusual. While she was med intensively in Bharatanatyam from the age of to sixteen, she completely gave up her connections with the world of dance f or thirty years. lit the age of forty?six she re-entered the field and has gained unmatched recognitions and awards including the coveted Padmabhushan from the Government of India. She continues to work tirelessly to bring this art to students around the world.
Ashtapadi - Sakhi Hey: This doyenne of Abhinaya begins with an Ashtapadi from Jayadevas Gitagovinda, ?Sakhi hey keshi mathanamudaram set to Raga Shuddhasarang. This immortal love poem dealing with the love of Radha and Krishna revels in all the moods of Sringara rasa. Radha here, passionately yearning for Krishna asks her sakhi to fetch the ?killer of the demon Keshi?, for she is over powered by desire. She describes how as an Abhisarika, she set off through the forests in the dark of night for a tryst with the Lord in the bower. She recapitulates on the ecstasies of those first intimate moments, when her shyness was conquered by the honeyed words of Krishna who deftly, with love led her through this experience.
Padam - Ettanai Sonnalum : The next Popular Padarn in Ragam Saveri portrays a mother admonishing her daughter for fighting with the husband and coming away to the parents home. ?No matter how many times you have been told, you seem to delight in the same behaviour?, she says urging the daughter to go back to the husband.
Padam - Ennai varugavena kurittittu : Kalanidhi next presents a Padam in Todi Ragam. Here is a Vipralabdha Nayika, a mature woman who is duped in love. The Nayika asked by the Lord to meet him at a certain place, finding nobody there, discovers that he is on a tryst with another woman. She vows to have her revenge for after alt he was bound to come again to her sometime.
An eminent Indian classical dancer of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi styles, Yamini brought about national and international recognition to both these Southern Dance forms.
After her strong foundation in Bharatanatyam under Rukmini Devi Arundale, she explored the higher levels of this dance form under renowned masters such as Kanchipuram Ellappa Pillai, Thanjavur Kittapa Pillai, Dhandayudhapani Piliai and Mylapore Gouri Amma.
She was trained in Kuchipudi under Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Shastri, Chinta Krishnamurthi and Pasumarthy Venugopal Krishna Sharma. In addition to Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, she learnt Odissi from Pankaj Charan Das and Kelucharan Mohapatra. She was trained in Karnatak vocal music by M.D. Ramanathan and learnt the Veena from Kalpakam Swaminathan.
She has the honour of being ?Asthana Nartaki (resident dancer) of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. Her dancing career brought her many awards, including Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Padmashri and Padma Bhushan.
She produced Natyamurti?, a TV serial of 13 episodes for Doordarshan. Excerpts showcased in this DVD are from this serial.
Kamakshi Swarajati : With the temple courtyard as the ideal venue, Yamini Krishnamurthy pays homage to the Goddess of Kanchipuram Kamakshi through one of the greatest Swarajatis composed by Shyama Sastry in the majestic raga Bhairavi. The entire composition with the alternating solfa passages followed by the interpretative passages comprising words set on them is in a Nritta/Abhinaya blend, giving a glorious description of the Goddess at whose Lotus feet the worshipper pledges his faith. He describes her teeth like jasmine flowers, eyes like the Lotus, neck like a conch, hair like the dark rain bearing clouds, face like the Moon, shapely bosom and with gait like that of an elephant. She is the one at whose feet the Trimurti of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma have offered homage. The poet pleads to the Devi to bestow her blessings on him. He appeals to the One who resides in the Kadamba? forest, who is like the Lion for intoxicated tuskers and who burns to cinders the afflictions of her devotees. ?Oh daughter of the mountains, you know I have surrendered to you. Why are you indifferent to my call? Enchanter of Vishnu, please listen mother. The slow and heady quality of the music in Bhairavi sets the mood straight away.
Ashtapadi 1 Chandana Charchita: Yamini next presents two 7shtapadis from the Gitagovinda. The first ?Chandana Charchita Neelakalebara? visualizes the picture of Krishna clad in yellow silk with wildflower garlands adorning him, sporting with the Gopis, his jewelled earrings adorning his cheeks as he dances and revels with the women. Set to Vasanta Ragam, this lyric is joyful of celebration of love in Spring , where Natures bounty heightens desire.
Ashtapadis-2- Dheera Sameere The next Ashtapadi ?Dheera Sameere? in Ahir Bhairav visualizes the Sakhi entreating Radha to shed her pride and join Krishna on the banks of the Jamuna where he waits for her eagerly, imagining every falling feather or leaf to be the tender approaching feet of his beloved Radha. ?Take off your noisy anklets which clang traitorously during love play, and join Krishna who in wildflower garlands, in the dead of night, waits for you.? Befitting the theme, both Ashtapadis are presented by the dancer on the banks of a river.
Ravana?s Shiva Stuti In the Shiva temple, Yamini ends with a bristling description of Shiva based on Ravanas Shivastotram. The Lord adores tiger skin, snakes, moon and the Ganga. The majestic grandeur of the Lord is evoked in this visualization
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam
Javali- 1, Jaanaro
Javali-2, Itu Sahasamulu
Excerpt from Kumarsambhavam
V.P. Dhanajayan and shanta Dhananjayan
Ashtapadi, Sakhi He...
Padam, Ettani Sonnalum
Padam, Ennai Varugavena
Ashtapadi -1, Chandana Charchita...
Ashtapadi-2, Dheera Sameere...
Ravana's Shiva Stuti