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Dance Of The Duo

Jeyanthi R. Ghatraju

Natyanjali, an offering of dances in praise of the various Hindu deities was presented on Sunday, September 2nd at 3pm at the Chinmaya Maruti Center in Andover, MA. The dancing duo was Amritha Mangalat and Keerthana Gnanapradeepan, disciples of Smt. Sunanada Narayanan at the Thillai Fine Arts Academy.

Despite the fact that it was the middle of a long week-end before another hectic school year, they had the full fledged support of connoisseurs and patrons of Indian music and dance. Crisp and clear introductions for the items were given by Smt. Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, eminent scholar, choreographer, musicologist and the illustrious mother of Sunanda. The careful choice of items reflected on the depth of knowledge in music and dance that Smt. Sunanda and Smt. Sujatha share; highlighting the uniqueness of the Vazhuvoor style that the gurus hail from, their long and fruitful association with violin maestro Sri. Lalgudi Jayaraman, and the flare for variety introducing different composer's works (Sri. Muthiah Bhagavathar, Maharaja Swati Thirunal and the contemporary writer, Sri. Periasamy Thooran). It was a wonderful treat for lovers of music and dance, as there was a piece of the pie for both interest groups.

Amritha and Keerthana started the recital with a Thodayamangalam, in praise of the gods and goddesses of Vazhuvoor, followed by the vintage number, Chokkesar kauthuvam. Traditionally performed when the deity is taken out in procession, Mrs. Vijayaraghavan pointed out the unique "right leg up" pose of Lord Shiva, which was in request to the devotees who pleaded to Him to shift from his usual "idadhu padam thookkiya left foot up" pose.Jathiswaram in ragam Rasikapriya composed by Sri. Lalgudi Jayaraman followed. True to the introduction, we could feel the body language of flowers blooming in a beautiful garden, swans gliding around in a lake, and the gentle breeze in this verse-free item.

The central piece was the daru varnam, Mathe malayadwaja in ragam Kamas, by Harikesanallur Sri. Muthiah Bhagavathar. Dedicated to goddess Meenakshi, the valorous one of Madurai, the girls were at their best with their brisk footwork and eloquent expressions bringing about salient features from the story of Meenakshi. A typical daru varnam has sollukattu or jathis as part of the mukthayi swaram and sahitya following in close succession. For a layman whose impression of varnam could be "long and dragging", Amritha and Keerthana kept the audience totally awestruck and one with them throughout in this challenging piece.

Gopalaka Pahimam anisham (Maharaja Swati Thirunal) in ragam Revagupthi was presented next by Amritha where she highlighted the various leelas of Lord Krishna and how he astonished his mother by showing the entire universe inside his mouth! It was quite a delight to watch.

Keerthana explored the greatness of Rama's feet in the padam, Bhajamana Rama by Saint Tulsidas. The choreography was so subtle in bringing out the uniqueness of Rama's feet from which Ganges originates and the essence of the story of Guha. Guha was quite anxious to help Rama but was in a dilemma to explain how he felt. As naïve as he was, he says, "I heard that you brought a stone to life just by your touch and the beautiful Ahalya emerged. As much as it is great, I just have this boat for my livelihood and I'd need to keep it the way it is. Hence, do you mind if I wash your feet first before you get in, oh Lord Rama?" When Mrs. Vijayaraghavan narrated this, the audience could appreciate the depth and emotion of the author in bringing about the greatness of Rama's devotees. Keerthana did full justice to her gurus and the composer in expressing the sentiments.

The peppy Azhahu deivamaha" kavadichindu composed by Sri. Periasamy Thooran, came next. Amritha and Keerthana performed it soulfully keeping in mind the underlying melody in addition to the rhythm, and had the audience going for a while in this folksy number. The thillana of the evening was Geetha dwaniki, a composition of Maharaja Swati Thirunal and music by Sri.Lalgudi Jayaraman. The choreography was quite innovative in that, the verse "thanukave" was interpreted with the playing of various musical instruments and on the whole in a much faster pace than usual, which Amritha and Keerthana performed with grace and precision.

As Mrs. Vijayaraghavan mentioned, mangalam is a benediction for all, those who performed, witnessed, heard about the program later and for the universe. Amritha and Keerthana held on to this belief completely in radiating the bliss from their dance to all. Fortunate were we, to have attended, enjoyed and shared the same with our friends and family!!

( Jeyanthi R. Ghatraju is a Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher and a music lover based in Westford, MA. )

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