Abhivyakti emboldened Bharatanatyam dancers Kathanki and Manasi to present the emotional world of the vyandhal community through the sharpened skills of their dance medium. Researchers, journalists, fiction writers and theatre persons have focused on the alienation, aspirations and suffering of the community. Rarely, if ever, classical dancers have made an aspect of their life a theme. The young dancers did it last Friday at KCG with such an aesthetic sense they associated with the theme that those among the educated in the audience who never had an exposure to it in the art world sat up and tried to understand.
The two dancers have their advanced dance training at Dr Kanak Rele’s renowned performing arts centre Nalanda Mahavidyalay in Mumbai. Dancers with a Nalanda touch, which is reflected in their clarity of lines, the dignity they lend to holding the body and to its movement, can be set apart among dancers by discerning viewers. Dedication to their art form is also a shared trait. Besides, they are not content with only displaying virtuoso skills. These dancers are often seen to relate their skills to socially oriented themes. Bhekh is a striking example.
In a well-researched production, under Malhar Dave’s guidance for the subject, the dancers make an endeavour to give a glimpse of the process of bhekh, an initiation into the ways of the community where with dignity and empathy the Guru ceremoniously receives the new entrant, who shrugs off diffidence and a sense of insecurity in society and determined never to look back, accepting the facts of his body and social response, he begins to explore how his emotional aspirations can be met.
The dance duo begins a visual interpretation of Malhar’s text – neither highly lyrical nor crudely prosaic – inviting attention to the vedana (suffering) that is part of the existence of members of the community. It urges those outside the community to recognize their existence and see what a ‘wonderful’ creation they are! The two dancers apply their dance vocabulary to the social theme so pleasingly well, now with mirror images between the Guru and the shishya being anointed, now a dialogue between them, and now their response to syllable sounds, even with loud claps and a hoarse voice, that the audience response is appreciative, not derisive as normally it is in reality. Their dance subtly demonstrates the dual nature of their existence with taandava and laasya movement.
‘Hold my finger,’ the Guru tells the shishya, who is promised a special way of life and is reminded that it is the friction in the ghungroo that produces a sweet sound. One wishes the wording in the text were closer to the everyday language of today. Even within this limitation however, particularly with the visual pleasure the performance becomes in the classical dance format, that it achieves its basic objective of eliciting compassion for the incomplete human existence nature has created. We parrot words in our prayers and Shlokas sarve bhavantu sukhinah and vasudhaiva kutumbakam. The dancers through their performance in Bhekh urge us to translate the ideal into practice.
Image courtesy : Abhivyakti
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