Natya Sangraham, the annual dance camp organised (22 to 24 January) at Thennangur by Natyarangam, the dance wing of the Narada Gana Sabha, had as many as thirty students this year from Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, New Delhi and Gurgaon, besides students from Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
The three-day workshop kickstarted at 6.30 every morning with energising yoga sessions conducted by dancer and yoga teacher Jyotsna Narayan. Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar, the convenor of the camp, conducted the angika sessions with customary flair, correcting the stances, steps and postures of the participants and tirelessly stressing the importance of auchityam or propriety in presentation. His inputs in all the interactive sessions were invaluable in making the workshop a wholesome experience.
Priyadarsini Govind, Director, Kalakshetra and a faculty member at the camp, conducted a session on satvika abhinaya and highlighted the importance of the imagination in order to gain insights into the mind of a character in a given situation. She said that the power of observation and the ability to ask questions (such as who, why, what, where and when) help deepen a dancer’s understanding of any composition. She took up the kritis Jagadoddharana and Sakhiye inda velayil jaalam seyyade to illustrate the navarasas and pointed out that personalising an action added beauty and value even to mundane actions. “Internalisation is the key to discovering depth in what one is practicing,” she said, adding, “When thought begins from within, ideally the nabhi, it is reflected through the eyes!” According to Priyadarsini, the key to mastering sahitya or lyrics is to not only note down their word-to-word meanings, but also understand the sthayi or underlying emotion, and furthermore, actively identify with the character and situation in order to communicate it appropriately and effectively.
Likewise, well-known violinist and vocalist R.K. Shriramkumar emphasised the importance of learning the sahitya even as he focused on ragas and swaras in his lecture demonstration. He explained the lakshanas of certain ragas, pointing out that how ga is the jeeva swara of Kalyani, dha and ni are essential to Athana and janta swaras give life to Nata raga. In order to highlight the importance of meaning, bhava and tala in any kriti, Shriramkumar took up Teliyaleru Rama and explained why it was crucial to choose an apt line of the sahitya for niraval, since music and meaning are inseparable and go hand-in-hand. As for viruttam singing, Shriramkumar underlined the need to look out for deergha or longish aksharas and use ragas with similar gamaka structures while singing in ragamalika.
Sudha Seshayyan’s session dealt with a key aspect of vachika abhinaya. To understand and appreciate poetry, she advocated the step-by-step approach: Read the word, understand the word; Leave the word and catch the line; Leave the line, assimilate the poem; Make the poem a part of you. Dr. Sudha encouraged the participants to think of how Indian texts are interpreted in literature and in classical dance, while pointing out how much depends on the sensitivities and sensibilities of the individual. “Poetry is personalised,” she said. “The same piece can be interpreted differently by different dancers.” An expert in temple history and legends, she also dealt in detail on several facets of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple, Mannargudi Rajagopalaswamy temple and the Tiruvarur Tyagesa temple.
The session on compering by noted theatre person P.C. Ramakrishna of Natyarangam was brief but informative, and included vital reminders such as attention to detail and clarity in expression which have the potential to make or mar a dance performance.
Among the notable events at Natya Sangraham were the glittering Dolotsavam for Lord Panduranga, with R.K. Shriramkumar singing compositions suitable for dance, accompanied by K.S. Subramaniam of Natyarangam on the mridangam, and the Garuda Sevai which witnessed some mellifluous nagaswaram accompaniment by vidwan Sithukadu Murugavel and party and spirited dancing by all the participants around the temple.
Certificates of participation were handed over on the concluding day, and all the dancers expressed appreciation for the care, comfort and the wealth of information extended to them during the three-day workshop.
(A bilingual writer, art critic and organiser)