The new moon eve of 14 January was marked by many classical dance recitals, but it was not difficult to decide to go and watch a well-known challenger at various classical dance competitions and this year’s Balashree title awardee whose YouTube videos brought her the worldwide popularity.
The disciple of Sheela Unnikrishnan of Sri Devi Nrithyalaya, Harinie Jeevitha’s recital began with a seldom performed Sadhanchittha in bouli raga and kandachapu tala dedicated to nagarishi Patanjali. A meditative 2-minute spell of solo vocal music was accompanying the astonishingly supple danseuse as her spectacular poses, reminiscent of Yoga Sutras, were changing each other in a seamless, snake-like flow that was perhaps more suitable for the Odissi technique that some Bharatanatyam dancers, such as Alarmel Valli, have mastered. The introduction was followed by the brisk and intricate nritya portraying the naga rishi, who went to seek Nataraja’s darshan and initially confronted by Nandi guarding Shiva’s abode. Harinie’s every move was harmoniously matched by a spontaneous change in her beautiful face. In tune with the item’s fiery nature, the slender danseuse’s red costume was fluttering across the stage in such vigorous dancing that one of the arm bracelets didn’t sustain it.
The following 38-minutes varnam, Ganam Isaitu in ragamalika and adi tala, began with the a two-minute prelude of abhinaya depicting the Virahotkantita nayika pleading with Lord Krishna to reveal himself.
Harinie’s abhinaya was sophisticated, her bhavas deep and often very intense. Sometimes her the depictions of the hopeful yearning, astonishment and despondence were too staggering. Why would a Bharatanatyam dancer portray the uttama characters, such as a Pandava queen being dragged into the court by Dushasana, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Saroja Devi’s acting? While the 15-year-old girl excelled in the lasya abhinaya, her extremely feminine nature seeped through in the depiction of Karna, the greatest warrior of Mahābhārata, when he was stoically pulling out Arjuna’s arrow out of his heart.
Sri Lingaraj Urs’s padam Sringara Lahari brought the sleepy raga Nilanbari. Harinie depicted Devi in her many aspects, actions and relationships. Being far from the most exciting or popular padam in the Bharatanatyam repertoire, presenting this item without putting the rasikas to sleep is an enormous task for the most gifted choreographers and dancers. That Sri Devi Nrithyalaya’s put a major effort in resuscitating it for the stage performance, althought the absense of a veena in the orchestra was a significant drawback. The amazingly nimble danseuse exhibited her natural grace and acute sense of laya in the harmoniously blending perfectly-chiselled poses, gestures and expressions in the intricate nritya, as well as the nritta that spiced up the even-paced, monotonous padam.
Periasamy Tooran’s Keerthanam Muruganin Maru Peyar Azhagu in raga behag in kanda chapu tala let the dancer to display the full range of nuances of the vatsalya bhava as she was presenting Lord Murugan as a child. The artiste’s mobile face did it with childlike delicate spontaneity, liveliness and charm, producing many expressions of which an adult dancer would feel too inhibited to display. This Keerthanam was performed without any instrumental music, which proved to be a failed attempt as the singer’s virtuosity was far from the level of G. N. Balasubramaniam. As if in a wrongly dubbed movie, it was odd to see the danseuse’s lip movements being accompanied by a husky male voice throughout the padam. The 150-strong audience were clearly not very enthusiastic about it as a third of them left the Obul Reddy Hall as soon as the item ended.
The programme ended with a sprightly Kathanakuthuhalam thillana composed by Dr. Balamuralikrishna. This item too offered an abundance of intricate poses, some of which can only be found in Sri Devi Nrithyalaya’s choreography, and complex adavus of the Melattur style.
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