S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Friday, 2 November 2018

Lalit Arpan Festival of Dance and Music

The 17th edition of the Lalit Arpan Festival conducted in Delhi on 27 and 28 September 2018 was a rasika’s delight. It was well organized under the guidance of guru Shovana Narayan, Jyotsna Suri and Harish Narula. The festival commenced with the conferring of the Lalit Arpan Samman on stalwarts like Guru Birju Maharaj (Lifetime Samman), Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Alka Raghuvanshi.

The festival started on a high note with the energetic Kathak performance of young Mrinalini, a student of guru Shovana Narayan since the age of six. Mrinalini’s pleasant disposition and confidence as a dancer reflected the hours of practice that led to her commendable presentation. In between the performance, Mrinalini mentioned that she had grown up watching all the previous editions of the Lalit Arpan festival, and was ecstatic to be
finally performing in it.

Next was a Kuchipudi performance by Shallu Jindal, a disciple of Raja and Radha Reddy. Through her graceful movements, professional footwork and abhinaya, Shallu depicted famous stories from Lord Krishna’s childhood. Her intricate movements and balance on the brass plate, which seemed effortless, won her several rounds of applause from the audience. She also danced to a Meera bhajan (Sanson ki mala pe simruun main pee ka naam), enunciating the bhakti and rakti between two souls.

On day two of the festival, audiences were treated to Ragini Madan’s riveting Kathak performance. Another student of Shovana Narayan, Ragini’s style is a blend of the Lucknow and Jaipur gharanas. Ragini, who has been performing in the UK for more than a decade, performed in India after a gap of 12 years. Her passion for and excellence in Kathak were evident in her sweeping movements and dizzying circles. Ragini also went on to enact the sacrifice of Yasodhara, Gautama Buddha’s wife, penned by Maithili Sharan Gupt. She powerfully emoted Yasodhara’s plight and distress through her darting eye movements and beautiful expressions.

The second performance of the day was by Kristina Dolonina of Lithuania, also a student of Shovana Narayan, who danced at the Lalit Arpan Festival in 2007. The relentless speed of her turns and spins was impressive, and it was heartening to see a foreigner performing an Indian dance form so exquisitely. With a Masters in Hindi from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, she addressed the audience in flawless Hindi. Her abhinaya
piece was an interweaving of two poems by two women in two countries—India’s Mahadevi Varma and a Lithuanian poet—similar in their feelings about pain, suffering and divinity. Kristina is actively involved in promoting Kathak in her country.

A fitting finale of the two-day festival was a soulful music soiree by sitar-sarod brothers Lakshay and Ayush Mohan, who said that it was special for them to be performing in Delhi, their own city. Playing an interactive jugalbandi in raga Durga with harmonious understanding, their chemistry was perfect. Towards the end of the show, their strings strummed at lightning speed, reaching a crescendo. It enthralled the audience which broke out in resounding applause.

Overall, the Lalit Arpan Festival set high standards in both dance and music.

(Freelance writer)

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