Dandayudhapani Pillai and K J Sarasa. Two great names of Bharatanatyam, enough
to draw a crowd of connoisseurs. "But," lamented the organizers, "why haven't
they come yet?" "They will," I assured them. And they did - to watch Urmila
Satyanarayanan perform for SICA.
Electrifying stage presence, poised execution and well-preserved tradition were
the forte of this young danseuse from Chennai, where nitpicking critiques don't
allow you to even put a foot on stage before the authors are satisfied of your
caliber. That her brochure is full of high acclaim from them is a sure proof
of the stuff that she was made of. And she was determined to show it.
Uncontaminated by the 'experiment' bug that seems to be biting most Hyderabadi
dancers these days, her style displayed the ancient dance form in pristine purity.
Precise nritta and quicksilver abhinaya added loads of charm to
the performance. A flutter of eyelashes here, a pout there, the statuesque stillness
of a pose held in unfaltering balance - all communicated emotions at their lyrical
Pushpanjali invoking Ganesha followed by Sadanada Tandavam as
opening items reminded one strongly of the Vazhuvoor recitals of the olden days
(K J Sarasa hails from this school) where the devadasis praised the temple deity
and then set about creating an illusion of the figures on the walls coming alive
to dance to the chants of music.
Matei was an excellently executed daru varnam, depicted episodes
involving Chanda and Munda, the demons who wooed Goddess Parvati and were finally
slain by her, thus winning her yet another name, Chamundeswari. Hindu mythology
has always provided a rich source for sanchari abhinaya. So why are some
of us dancing to the tune of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star', and that sung with
'Nee Matalemayera', a javali, was short and sweet. Annamacharya's 'Jo Achyutananda'
truly revealed the artiste's prowess in creative abhinaya. Subramanya Bharathi's
'Kavadi Chindu', a folk item and a must in every Bharatha Natyam repertoire,
was simply lilting, and appeared to be a special with Urmila.
The performance concluded with a tillana, a composition of Lalgudi Jayaraman,
and left us in no doubt of the place that this highly gifted dancer has in the
field of Bharathanatyam - at the top.
As the recital was in progress, I recalled an anecdote on the Nattuvanars. When
people asked Veena Dhanammal why she went to dance shows conducted by Nattuvanar
Minakshi Sundaram Pillai when she was near blind, she replied, "To hear him
sing, what else!" Nattuvanar Suresh this evening sang with a voice that danced.
You could listen to him and visualize an entire dance repertoire.
This was a great show by a great performer.