Thursday, 12 March 2015

The sweetness of Southern India circuit (Day 6 evening) - The Bharatanatyam performance, Kumbakonam - The 16th of February 2015

Upon having reached the hotel we headed to a Theatre-like building within the premises of the hotel without delay once the young Indian dancers of classical Bharatanatyam, who would be performing for our group had long been waiting for us.
Explanations were provided by one of the musicians prior to any of the dance performances, which helped us understand what they were about. Said to have originated in the Temples of Tamil Nadu Bharatanatyam is known for the graciousness of the sculpture-like poses of the dancers.

In most solo performances Bharatanatyam involves a number of characters that are depicted by the dancer, who switches roles through the swift turn in circle and creates story lines that are supposed to be easily followed and understood by the narrative of the song and the facial expression of the dancer. This is what happened in the first sequence of solo dancing by both young dancers and although the narrative of the song was out of our "reach" for obvious reasons the expression (abhinaya) was something we managed to "get into" and interprete.

The youngest dancer was very expressive and thus captivating. The second dancer was (in my humble opinion)  nevertheless more "complete" despite not being as expressive as the first one. According to what I have read  "good" dancers are expected to convey specific skills which range from agility, graceful lines and balance in piruettes to glancing ability apart from having to be youthful, beautiful and slender, as well as have large eyes and well rounded breasts (being fairly young the girls hadn't yet the last "quality").

Dancers  always wear anklets made of either rope or leather with rows of sleight-like (traditional copper) bells attached onto the ankle. The dancer's talent is "judged" along with other aspects which include style and presentation, by the amount of ringing heard and the number of bells worn on the ankle. The less ringing heard form the ankle the better the dancer, which is interpreted as having control and fluid movement. Depending on the number of rows of bells, so is the level of mastery (advance dancers wear 4 to 5 rows of bells).

In regards to the accompanying music the Carnatic style is said to be used and the instruments should include the mridangam (drum), the flute, the violin and the veena (a string instrument traditionally associated with Saraswati, the Hindu Godess of Arts and learning). Because there were only two musicians not all of those instruments were used throughout the performance, which ended with a sequence of duo performances displaying rather complex footwork and poses on the part of the dancers.

I addressed the girls at the end of the performing act so as to ask them some personal questions. Having realised they were school girls and not having yet checked into my hotel room I handed them out some colourful pens, decorated pencils, notebooks, stickers to decorate books, rings, earrings, bracelets and a few other things I had brought with me. They were clearly happy with those and so was I, especially for having brought a smile to their faces.

 The one thing I regret was having had some difficulty to photograph and film simultaneously, particularly from where I was sitting in the audience.


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