Meshing in four
art forms in a ballet


DANCE is in a state of flux. The puritanical concept of classical dance has changed to an extent where veterans in the field have come to believe that choreographed within the framework of the classical mould, innovations can be accepted. Thus we have jugalbandis, classical dance ballets and solo shows like the ones Mallika Sarabhai and the like put up occasionally.

Thilotama Koshy of Kochi has now come up with a tantalising idea which has just taken shape. It was staged as a preview, before a select audience in Kochi recently to gauge their opinion. Her attempt is laudable, to merge in four traditional art forms in a ballet. Bharatanatyam, Kalarippayattu, Kathakalai and Mohiniattam styles are incorporated in the ballet 'Aastik', which means, visions of the inner mind. It is adapted from the XVth, chapter of Bhagawad Gita and scripted in a parallel story, said Tilotama Koshy, producer of Aastik.

The subject matter is topical, destruction of nature resulting from man's greed. The ballet has four characters, whose movements are go verned by the four different classical art forms — bharatanatyam (Tilotama Koshy), Kalarippayattu (K P Krishnadas), Kathakali (Kalamandalam V Haridasan) and Mohiniattam (Melana Severskaia).

Tilotama choreographed the 65-minute affair with the help of her guru, Udupi Lakshmi Narayan. The music scored by Konarak Manohar Rama Reddy, of Bangalore easily stole the show. The recorded computerised music was a treat, with the chanting of slokas in bass adding to the quaint charm. Konarak Manohar Reddy has a degree in western classical guitar from Trinity College of Music and Royal School of Music, London. He studied jazz theory, composing and arrangement at Berklee College of Music, Boston.

But recorded music somehow robs a dance showbfmuch of its appeal. The only live musician Was mridangist Shyam K Menon. Recorded music was inevitable, says Tilotama, as it is computerised, in the first place and it is impractical to carry along such a huge ensemble of an orchestra. Haridasan, (Kathakali), playing the tree, stood bead and shoulders above the others. His emotions and movements were apt, easy to decipher, yet within the strict parameters of the art form.

Kalarippayattu was justly used to depict man, the homo sapien being the big bully that he is. His role was overplayed, perhaps as in real lire. There is everything you ever wanted to see about Kalarippayattu here, of the Vadakkan style. Krishna Das is a fifth generation exponent of the art, belonging to the Vettaddu tradition.

Melana Severskaia from St Petersburg, Russia, swayed gracefully in Mohiniattam, portraying the forest dweller, pained at the carnage of nature by man. This Russian belle has immense grace and could have been utilised more. She studied classical dance in Moscow under a disciple of Nirmala Ramachandran. V. P. Dhananjayan and Shyamala Surendran are also her gurus.

Tilotama did the role of Mohini, art from choreographing it along with her guru, Udupi Lakshmi Narayan. There are no exits or entrances. The characters freeze out of the active scene. This is a new technique employed. It took one year to prepare and rehearse, said Tilotama. As the concept is new and the work involved huge, a little more polishing will make it pucca and the best way to present all these forms of dance on the same platform in the shortest duration possible and yet sustain credibility.