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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Taking Mohiniyattam forward

Vijayalakshmi at Samvesh 2011
Samavesh 2011, organised by The Aseema Trust together with Lasyatarangini, an online Mohiniyattam group celebrated the spirit of Mohiniyattam with talks and interactive sessions by eminent artistes on Dec 17 and 18 on different aspects of the dance form.

The inaugural session at Kalakshetra started off with a talk by Shri Ashok Chatterjee who took us though the life of the legendary dancer, Shanta Rao. Smitha Rajan, noted Mohiniyattam dancer and guru led the afternoon session at Chandralekha’s Spaces wherein she shared her insight into Abhinaya in Mohiniyattam. She said that only by going through the three stages of Abhinaya, the Sameepya, Saroopyam and Thadatmyam(by getting near the character, can one bring out the essence of the character being portrayed and the story told effectively). She captivated the audience with her skilful Abhinaya proving that not just that of love but any sentiment could be tellingly handled in Mohiniyattam.

Smitha Rajan at Samvesh 2011
An interactive session, followed, with Padma Sri Bharati Sivaji, Dr Neena Prasad, Smt Smitha Rajan and Smt Vijayalakshmi on “Taking Mohiniyattam forward”. Bharati Shivaji exhorted the need for a collective effort in Mohiniyattam for the healthy growth of the dance form. Smitha Rajan stressed on the need for a thorough training and understanding of the dance form before plunging into performance and choreography. Dr Neena Prasad was of the opinion that despite being a very rich dance form, Mohiniyattam is probably not getting the limelight, probably because it needs more committed artistes with a greater vision for Mohiniyattam. Smt Vijayalakshmi said that the organisers need to think of collaborations with cultural organisations and professional art administrators in order to gain wider audience and participation. There was a need felt in taking Mohiniyattam to the schools, probably all dancers should consider it their responsibly to take the dance form closer to the younger generation making it more accessible and interesting. All the speakers were happy that Lasyatarangini has made such an attempt to bring the Mohiniyattam community together and felt that it is a new beginning, the need of the hour.

Dr Neena Prasad at Samvesh 2011
Smt.Vijayalakshmi’s on the 18th morning focused on the techniques evolved by her Guru Bharati Sivaji. The new dimensions in Mohiniyattam was show cased through various thematic group productions ranging from Swan Lake, Unniyarcha to Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. Dr Neena Prasad presented her paper on the Tandava element in the predominantly Lasya form of Mohiniyattam. Her performance of Siva Tandava as the pure nritta element and the bhava laden padam from Amarapali was a demonstration of her theory that both Lasya and Tandava are two contrasting colours which can be made to complement each other with the lighter shades of the colours. When asked how the Lasya rich Mohiniyattam can incorporate Tandava element she said that she did not mean the vigorous tandava but the softer one’s which are necessary to give the male characters its required characteristics.

The concluding session of the series of four talks was a lecture demonstration by Kalaimamani Smt.Gopika Varma on her “Approach to Choreography”. As a performer, she claimed herself to be a storyteller, an attribute which she imbibed from her grandmother who used to narrate many stories to her in her childhood. She described how each story she found worth choreographing lingered in her mind and enabled her to identify herself with the characters. Elaborate 'Abhinaya' being her strongest point in dance, she has always believed in onstage improvisation while enacting a role.

Gopika Varma at Samvesh 2011
She believed that more than her words and her theories, her choreography spoke better for her and she performed parts of few items that she had choreographed. With Yamuna Kinare, a Bhajan by Maharaja Swathy Thirunal, one of her recent choreographies, she showed her creative way of weaving a beautiful story out of a few verses. She then demonstrated a Varnam in praise of Lord Ayyappan, showing how to handle multiple characters including the extreme maleness of Shiva. With this varnam she also demonstrated her recent experiments with various rhythm patterns in Mohiniyattam. Through BhamaKapalam, she showed how she gave two different personalities to both Satyabhama and Rukmini. Her Vishweshwaradarshanam, showed her unique way of narrating and emoting the audience to the point of complete involvement.