I have always been a huge fan of Bharathanatyam exponent, Shri Shankar Kandaswamy sir for his flawless and fascinating style that retains the originality of the art form and steeped in traditional roots.
The essence of his dance had always been filled with bhakti rasa making me realise the divinity within and appreciate this particular dance form more than anything else.
Blessed are those dancers who trained under this great mentor to eventually blossom into an exemplary and fine artist.
Two such blessed dancers were Imran Syafiq Bin Mohd Affandi and Kimberly Yap Choy Hoong of Aswara who successfully completed their Arangetram (Graduation)at TFA, in Brickfields Kuala Lumpur on April 28.
Personally, I would say these two dancers were among the most apt to showcase the excellence of their mentor through their phenomenal debut performance.
Though they hail from a non-Indian/Hindu background, their mastery of the technique and vocabulary of this danceform to depict a variety of themes and artistic conceptions were simply outstanding.
They began with a traditional Mallari, resembling the temple procession bearing Lord Shiva in palanquin and Aalarippu. They appeared like a peacock and peahen majestically stretching their feathers preparing the audience for an enchanting repertoire ahead.
The anchor piece of the Arangetram was Padma Bhushan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman’s Varnam ‘Angayar Kanni’ in raagam Navaragamalika highlighting the 9 navarasa (sentiments) of Bharathanatyam through the depiction of Goddess Meenakshi’s glories.
Here, both the dancers handled the various moods with accuracy embellished with excellent mudras and pada bhedas. They were considerably at ease in handling both abhinaya and nritta.
Out of all the 9 navarasa which was marvelously emoted by the dancers, I personally enjoyed the choreography of Veera Bhavam displaying great bravery of the warrior goddess. Be it in the battle ground, training or tussling with Nandhi at Kailash.
The orchestra was truly inspiring and the music moved almost everyone in the audience. Shri Nandakumar Unnikrishnan on the vocals did a tremendous job in beautifully rendering the varnam. Especially the second part that begins with ‘Deviye Paninthu’ where Nandakumar’s singing was exceptionally soulful and melted the audience’s hearts.
After the interval, Kimberly illustrated Yashoda’s great boon in having Lord Krishna as her child from the view point of his biological mother, Devaki in Shri Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Enna Thavam Seithenai’. In rendering the padam in raagam Kapi she wooed the audience with her excellent use of bhava-abhinaya and instant transformations into Devaki, Yashoda and Krishna’s character.
The dramatic master piece then followed in ‘Dhikku Theriyatha Kaatil’, a composition of Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiyar in raagam Ragamalika.
A Nayika (maiden) in search of Lord Krishna loses herself in the forest and meets a hunter who is astounded by her beauty and pleads to marry her.
She in turn calls him brother and tells him that she is already married (to Krishna) and it is not right of him to even glance at her. But he refuses to budge and tells her that he is not bothered about all these moral pleadings.
The maiden cries for Krishna’s help and faints but only to be woken up by her beloved’s mesmerizing flute and realising it was Him who appeared as the Hunter.
Both the dancers through their phenomenal abhinaya and postures, transformed the whole padam into a simply ravishing visual poetry up to the point that I just could not take my eyes off them!
In his solo padam, ‘Shringara Velavane’, Imran Syafiq showcased his flamboyant bhava and exceptional energy in his movements especially the jumps, reminiscent of his guru, Shankar’s moves.
I was even skeptical whether this was actually Imran’s debut performance as it was just amazing to see him perform like a truly professional and experienced artist.
The concluding Thillana in raagam Mohanam, in praise of Lord Sundareshwarar maintained the tempo of the recital and gave a fitting finish to the magnificent recital.
Kudos to both the dancers and I am pretty sure that they will definitely go places in future.
Review by Chetraa Subramaniam.
Photo by LH Tang