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Kavi Nrithyam - A Beautiful Garland Of Kavituams

Ramesh Peelamedu
11/18/2014

Striving for excellence by introduction of fresh themes into their dance concepts has caused me to look forward for Kolam Academy of Dance’s annual shows. While last year’s production “Sivoham” had continue to linger in my mind, the artistic director Guru Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan came up with another interesting theme called “Kavi Nrithyam: A garland of kavithuvams” for this year.  She and her students of the Academy showcased this theme through dance performances at Chinmaya Mission Auditorium in Andover on November 9th 2014.

To give some background, Kavithuvam is hymn, a song of devotion in praise of a deity to seek his/her blessings. Most of the kavithuvams are dedicated to a particular deity of a temple and sung during processions as part of daily rituals.  For example, Chidambara Natesa Kavithuvam by Ganagai Muthu Nattuvanar is solely dedicated to the deity at the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple. Similarly, Nachiar or Andal Kavithuvam is dedicated to the Andal deity at the shrine of Srivilliputthur.

In a Kavithuvam, the lyrical passages give the dancer scope to explore abhinaya while the sollukattus keep the pace and tone of both the dancer and the audience. In this program, a large number of Kavithuvams were adopted from the compositions of versatile artist, lyricist and adept composer, Guru Sri Madurai R. Muralidharan.

The repertoire commenced with "Pushpanjali" composed by Sri Madurai R. Muralidaran in Ragam Jog, set to Adi talam.  A group of beginner level dancers wonderfully paid their obeisance to God, Guru and the audience. Followed by this was Jatiswaram composed by Tanjore Quartet set in ragam Saveri and Roopaka talam. While the kids were performing, my eyes sharply converged on their execution of adavus and mudras. They were very engaging, not just individually, but also collectively. The flow of melody and rhythm had evoked a sense of harmony and joy in hearts of spectators. The subsequent Sabdham set to MisraChapu talam in Ragamalika was very well executed by the students. This composition by Sri Madurai R. Muralidaran had words and connotations that expressed the myriad moods of Lord Krishna.
 
Then a group of senior dancers of Kolam Academy of Dance came on to the stage to perform the Padam, a composition of Sri Neelakanda Shivan in ragam Poorvi Kalyani and talam Roopkam. This composition, enunciates the power and beauty of cosmic dance of Lord Nataraja to fulfill the wish of his devotees. The attention of the crowd was utterly drawn into the subtle movements and expressions of the dancers as they eloquently showcased their skills acquired by years of learning.

The performances of Kavithuvams in praise of various Hindu lords by a number of dancers evinced the breadth and depth. It started with a Kavithuvam that was in praise of Lord Ganesha, composed by Gangai Muthu Nattuvanar performed beautifully by the little kids with great synchronization. This was followed by Nataraja kavithuvam composed by Sri Madurai R. Muralidaran in Ragamalika and talam Adi. The dancers had a good comprehension of denotation of the lyrics to express subtle nuances and emotions in their dance. A bit of surprise was unavoidable here noting the fact that not all dancers had the privilege of having a linguistic advantage. Immense efforts by Guru Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan and the students were distinctly noticeable.

A group of beginner and mid-level students exhibited their skills for Virutham and Natesha Kavithuvam. The poetic lines of Virutham were adopted from Tamil devotional literature Thevaram, from 81st song of 4th Thirumurai written by Thirunavukkarasar. It was so appropriate to watch the little children’s colorful countenance to the poetic lines praising mythological beauty of Lord Shiva. The performance of Natesha Kavithuvam group was commendable with their precise footwork and well-coordinated postures throughout the execution.

On various manifestations of Lord Shiva, the next Kavithuvam illustrates Shiva’s destructive power, his imperturbable yogic state and benevolent acts. This was composed by Madurai N Krishnan in  ragam Mohanam. When such pieces are rendered to their best, they can melt our hearts. The dancer, Shilpa Narayanan, showcased an utterly flawless performance with her footwork and variation in movements. Followed by this was Muralidhara Kavithuvam, another composition in praise of Lord Krishna in Ragam Arabi and talam Adi. This was composed by Sri Madurai R Muralidaran was very well presented by Karthiyayini Mahendrakumar and Meghna Kanthan as they brought out all the mischievous characteristics of Krishna, portrayed through their skillful Abinaya.  

The performance of Shuruthe Raju for Shanmuga Kavithuvam was quite impressive. She beautifully showcased the ability to manifest bhavas (expressions) in combination with nrittya (movements) to invoke the rasa in the spectator whose mind is completely in accordance with the performer. While I can’t describe too much about each kavithai, the one that needs a definite mention here is “Amma Kavithuvam” composed by Sri. Madurai Muralidharan in ragam Karna Ranjani and Adi talam. For one who is accustomed to listen to kavithuvams, this one had come as a little surprise because typically one could hear kavithuvams composed in praise of a certain deity. “Mother Father Teacher God” is a very popular adage in Hindu tradition, and is the order in which one should offer reverence. While Chetna Ayyagiri and Trisha Kagalavadi offered an astounding performance, the heart-touching poetic verses and powerful rendition had kept the crowd on its feet.

Finally, as the day starts and ends with Sun, the Kavithuvam series had also ended with Soorya. This recent piece, composed by Sri Madurai R. Muralidharan in ragam Palini and talam Adi, was infused with slow and fast beats, requiring an established dancer to bring its beauty out fully. A memorable dance presentation was given by none other than the artistic director of the Kolam academy of Dance, Guru Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan herself. She displayed a rigorous commitment to refining her practice, showing the difference between executing, even mastering, steps as she articulated every part of body like a flame.

Following Soorya Kavithuvam was a very vibrant Thillana, another beautiful composition of Sri Madurai R. Muralidharan in ragam Behag and talam Adi. Senior dancers of the Kolam Dance Academy took the stage to present this, which was punctuated with lovely formations and picturesque poses. It was a true feast for the eyes. This exceptional dance program, Kavi Nrithyam, finally came to an end with a concluding Mangalam recital, where all dancers of Academy appeared on stage to thank the Almighty, Guru and the audience.

It becomes a tough task to keep the audience focused incessantly for 2+ hrs with all dancers of Kolam Academy of Dance belonging to different ages and different backgrounds performing. A true commitment to learning and passion for the art of a dancer in every piece of dance presentation was very palpable that kept the audience ceaselessly engaged. An amalgam of a beautiful evening, devotional music, classical dance and colorful dancers had engrossed the audience and gave the taste of countless blissful moments. Now, I have no other choice except to wait for another year to relish the same feeling again.

Photo Credit – Jeyakumar Sathyamoorthy.

More pictures from the show at:  http://dazzle.smugmug.com/.../Kolam2014Showcase/n-s9pLt/

The beautiful performers of the evening were: Amy Koleth, Ananya Anand, Anika Mittal, Anika Shroff, Anusha Sambangi, Anushka Philip, Aparna Shanmugam, Avani Patel, Chetna Ayyagari, Dhakshinya Thangavel, Divya Vijayakumar, Irene Rubesh, Jahnvi Patel, Janani Shanmugam, Janette Jerusal, Karthiyayini Mahendrakumar, Kaviya Vijayakumar, Kruti Patel, Lamitha Iyer, Laya Raju, Mahija Nukala, Medha S. Bashyam, Meghna Kanthan, Mitali Sanjeev Gupte, Nanditha Prashanth, Oviya Inian, Preethi Mahendrakumar, Rebecca Koleth, Rianna Santra, Richa Juvekar, Saanvi Vutukur, Sadhvi Sreeram, Shilpa Narayanan, Shriyaa Anandakumar, Shuruthe Raju, Sinthya Kumar, Siri Tudi, Solai Alagappan, Sree Vaishnavi Bachiraju, Sruthi Ramesh, Sunthriiwi Venkat, Tithi Patel, Trisha Kagalavadi, Yashvi Patel.



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