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Leela Samson's Recital - An Embodiment Of Perfection

Ranjani Saigal & Amrita Saigal

Padmashri Leela Samson gave a Bharatanatyam recital at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA on Sunday Aug 10th under the auspices of the Meru foundation. One of the foremost disciples of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, Leela Samson brought the classic Kalakshetra touch to the recital. Combining traditional repertoire with new creations, Samson’s recital brought an interesting dimension to Bharatanatyam without compromising on the technique.

Perfection was the hallmark of this recital, be it Nritta or Abhinaya. From the perfect “Natyaarambha” to the execution of complicated “Teermanams” nothing was out of place. Samson began her recital with the Ardhanariswara Stuti in Ragamalika. The Ardhanarisvara form as the union of Prusa and Prakriti, consciousness and matter, Siva and Shakti was presented. She then presented a Varnam in Ragamalika composed by Dandapani Pillai. A Hindi bhajan in Shivranjani Ragam presented the eternal relationship between Radha and Krishna.

In the second half, Samson presented some excerpts from Kumarsambhavam. Samson was able to do justice to the poetry of Kalisada. Considering the greatness of the poet, this is by no means an easy task. The scene presented was Siva’s preparation of marriage to Parvathi. It was set in Rag Vibhas and set to music by Madhup Mudgal. Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi in Mishra Kafi Rag. followed. Samson then presented a Javali in Todi Ragam. The grand finale was a Lalgudi Tillana in Revathi Ragam set to Mishra Chapu Talam.

Samson’s pace of presentation was leisurely and this allowed us to enjoy the beauty of each movement. Bharatanatyam dancers are well aware of the difficulty of dancing intense adavus at a slow pace. Her Abhinaya was very subtle and dignified. Even the Javali which had an erotic theme was handled with exquisite care. Every piece brought a spiritual dimension to it. Samson’s firm grip on rhythm was clearly visible in her handling of complex Jathis in Mishra Chapu Talam in the Tillana.

The pace and the subtle nature of the presentation was a deviation from many modern presenters whose recitals often showcase fast and complex Jathis that dazzle the audience. For the uninitiated, this slow pace may be seen as boring. But for those in audience who had knowledge of music and dance, this recital was a treat. Such perfection is rarely seen.

O.S Arun ‘s vocal rendition of many pieces was exceptional. The use of different orchestras for each piece was a little distracting. The Telugu experts in the audience were also a little distracted by the mispronounced words in the Javali. Since words are of great importance in Padams and Javalis, it is important that musicians pay attention to them especially in dance recitals for the meaning is of paramount importance in dance recitals.

“I have not performed extensively in the United States. I am glad that at least towards the last phase of my career I am here to make this presentation to you” said Samson. It is clear that Samson is an artist who has spent her life internalizing and perfecting this great form without compromising on its spiritual dimension. We hope that this great artist continues to make her special presentations for many years to come.

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