Clean lines, flawless movements, incredible sense of rhythm, exquisite Abhinaya define Priyadarshini Govind’s dance. I have seen her perform many times over the years both in India and here in the US. The performances have always been of a very high caliber. Years of uncompromising hard work reflect on her Abhinaya as well as her Nritta. But what was it, in this weekend’s performance that touched me so, I wondered... I posted this on my face book page and have been talking to my friends who saw her dance in various cities during this tour. I have been getting the same comments. This tour has been magical!
She danced for almost 3 hours with no intermission; starting off with a unique invocation of Mallari, Garuda Dhanakam by Vedantha Desikar interspersed with a beautiful Ramadas Bhajan - Garuda Gamana Ra Ra. The music for this composition was arranged by Rajkumar Bharathi. The portrayal of the procession with Maha Vishnu carried by Garuda was exquisitely choreographed and executed. This was followed by Shanmuga Kavithuvam - a composition of Madurai Muralidharan in Ragam Shanmuga Priya.
Next was an elaborate Raga Malika Varnam – Roopaka thalam by Tanjore Quartet that was intense both in Nritta and Abhinaya. Her varnam or the main piece portrayed the Nayika longing for a reunion with Lord Brahadeeshwara - Lord Siva of Thanjavoor. “There may be others who are very bright and beautiful but none equal me” says the heroine to lord Siva and appeals to him to accept her. Priya’s sensuality in expressing the longing coupled with the visualization of the magnificent Lingam was stunning. Varnam is an elaborate piece; here both music and dance aspects came together to a total perfection. Vocalist Gomathynayagam and the violinist Deepu Nair were superb. Nattuvangam by K. S. Balakrishnan and mridangam by Vedakrishna complimented Priya’s precision.
Priya then portrayed in her unique padam Shiva Deeksha (Ragam Kurinji by Ganam Seenayya) the dichotomy of a devotee who initiated into the Shiva sect is attracted to Mannaru Ranga – Krishna and is unable to resist him. The subtle nuances she expressed as the Parakiya Nayaki torn between the two lovers or in this case two Gods was a proof of her mastery in Abhinaya. The next two dances, a popular Javali Née Matale (Pattabhiramayya - Poorvi Kalyani – Adi) and Nadamadi Thirindha (Kambodhi in Kanda Chapu composer Papa Vinasa Mudaliar) had the audience in stitches. Then a Thulasidas Bhajan, Thumaku Chalat Ramachandra in which mother Kousalya brags about her son Rama who is incomparable.
The performance came to an end with a Thillana (Poorvi – Roopakam, Composer - Tirugokarnam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar) followed by an Abhang – a Marathi devotional song painting the landscape where Krishna is playing the flute and the entire Brindavan is mesmerized and still.
There are good performances and there are great performances. While good performances are enjoyable, a great performance gets one completely immersed, forgetting the mundane and elevated to a plane of ecstatic surrender. I came out feeling exactly that. The answer to my question on why this was so memorable came to me when I realized that she has crossed a threshold and has achieved the greatness that happens only to very few artists who become one with the art form . The art defines them and elevates them. The artists become the art, dancers become the dance and this is what I found in Priya that evening. There was nothing separating her from the dance. Priya was the personification of dance.
Priyadarshini Govind and I share the same Guru, Late Sri S.K. Rajarathnam who had a knack for bringing out the best in every one of his students. He would have been thrilled to see what a great dancer Priya has turned out to be. Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan groomed her Abhinaya skills. Priya has gone above and beyond anybody’s expectations and has carved out a special place in the world of Bharatha Natyam as being a dancer’s dancer.
Our sincere thanks to MITHAS for bringing the wonderful dancer to the Boston area.
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