Unconventionalism is the way forward

Sattriya, a dance style from Assam, a four-part Odissi performance, a poetic Bharatnatyam performance and a Mohiniattam recital mark the beginning of the dance season at the NCPA in Mumbai this week. The ongoing dance festival Nakshatra presents some of the most interesting aspects of each of these dance styles bringing out a lot of contemporary work by the artistes.
The mixed bag of dancers provides a thoughtful perspective to the work being done by emerging and established dancers. Amrita Lahiri, head — programming (dance) says the mixed bag of dancers and their work is something she looks forward to. The variety is eclectic and showcases some of the best talent of the day. “We have tried to get them from all over India. Kanak Rele is Mumbai-based and is one of the most revered dancers of times. Among the young ones, Ayona Bhaduri is someone to look out for, as she will present a different repertoire from the usual one of Odissi. Prateesha Suresh with Sattriya will bring another dimension to the festival as it promises to be an evening with some of the best percussionists and dancers that we haven’t seen much of before. And of course we have Alarmel Valli doing Bharatnatyam who is again a brilliant artiste,” says Lahiri.
One aspect of this festival that catches your attention is the representation of the traditional items in a repertoire while still retaining the classical aspect of it and exploring the unusual. Ayona Bhaduri who is a graduate from Nrityagram is slated to perform today and she will present Chaturvarna, a four part traditional presentation in Odissi. Having come from Nrityagram, Ayona has trained under Bijayani Satpathy and Surupa Sen who are one of the most distinguished dancers in Odissi in today’s times and also under Sharmila Biswas of Kolkata. Her concluding piece is on Surpanakha, sister of the dreaded King of Lanka Raavana. It is quite unusual to see a whole performance dedicated to a character known so negatively for her acts, which also contribute largely to the making of the epic Ramayana. “The idea is to move away from the evil side and focus more on her as a human being. I think it is important for the audience to relate to any dance piece they see being performed and making something relevant is important,” says Ayona.
One of the highlights of the festival is the Sattriya dance performance by Prateesha Suresh and troupe. Sattriya known to be eighth classical dance form from Assam is known to have originated from one-act play and the dance form involves music and drama. The bhakats or the monks who are now the torch bearers of the this five century old tradition are now coming out of their monasteries and showcasing their culture to the world. “It is a dance form that is lesser known and probably this is the first time in Mumbai that it will be performed on a larger scale. Efforts to bring a scientific structure to the dance form have been going on for sometime. With more efforts and performances it will be noticed and evaluated,” says Suresh.
She has collaborated with 15 dancers from Assam and they will present some traditional items coupled with a performance based on the concept of Lord Krishna. The male and female dancers have a subdued style unlike the other dance styles where each of the genders focus more on their gender specific aspect. Some of the traditional items are Mati Akhora (movements on the ground) which include basic steps along with some acrobatic steps. There are glimpses of Bharatnatyam, Odissi and Manipuri for that matter but the dance style of Sattriya remains unique where one movement flows into another.
Kanak Rele along with her students will perform a Mohiniattam recital. Rele will perform dance pieces on Kugja and Gandhari, women who are often not explored otherwise.
“I have done intense research on them by studying various mythological texts. They have been popular worldwide and I feel the audiences in India should also get to see it,” says Rele.

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