Rama Vaidyanathan’s New Dimensions to the Margam Show
Veni, Vidi, Vici. Rather, let us change it to Venit, Vidit, Vicit to be more relevant.
Those words kept coming back to our minds watching Rama Vaidyanathan and ensemble take the stage for Atlanta on October 22 for the premier of her new production, “New Dimensions to the Margam”. She came, she saw, and she won us all with her captivating performance.
Rama Vaidyanathan needs no introduction. And every time she performs, the audience is taken on a roller coaster of emotions and senses. And this time, her stage presence transformed even a high-school auditorium into a magnificent cauldron of music and dance. As host, Usha Prasad promised, “prepare to be enchanted”. As one connoisseur put it at the end – “the show was ethereal”.
From the deep dives into the Hari Saras (pond) in the Krishna Panchaka Mallari with her team, to the 30-minutevarnam in Ragamalika and Aditalam using Mirabai's Padavali "Jhukaayi re badariyasaawan ki" to showcase a heart getting drenched in the rain akin to Krishna's golden touch;Rama and the team kept the audience completely submerged in the craft. The Marathi Abhang "Vithala naamachishaalabharali..." by Rama’s disciples - Kavya Ganesh, Reshika Sivakumar, Shubhamani Chandrashekhar and Vaishnavi Dhore - brought back memories of our childhood playing ball, skipping ropes, and transgressing outside into the unknown...and just evoked joy in our hearts.Incorporating playful abandon in a synchronized dance form while sticking to jati's is difficult, but Rama's choreography amazingly kept the dance within the guardrails while depicting innocence in its pure and divine form. The crowd was then enthralled to an amazing abhinaya piece on Rabindranath Tagore's composition "O Je Mane na Mana..." sung soothingly by Anugrah Lakshmanan, the vocalist to the sounds of the Khanjira played by Ashwin Subramanian,portraying a woman's desire to not let her lover leave the house - a perfect soft, cozy, and romantic reminiscence to groove to. And what highernote to end the show than a cosmic dance of Lord Shiva highlighting diverse nritta patterns, strong movements, reverberating footwork to the beats of the Mridangam by Sannidhi Vaidyanathan and an inimitable sense of coordination, dancing and breathing in unison by the young dancers, each one representing an avatar of Rama herself. Throughout the program, the amazing violin preludes and interludes by Vishwesh Swaminadhan gave the audience the highs and lows and time to catch their breaths, soak in what they saw and get ready for the next onslaught of choreographic innovation. The young quartet of musicians kept the audience enchanted and transfixed to the seats.Live sound for classical music is an art and Jogy Jose again showed why he is sought after by classical musicians and artists who come into town.92 minutes and it was over with everyone wanting more, and finally waking up from the trance to give a standing ovation to the team.
Bharatanatyam has come a long way. And Rama Vaidyanathan is on the leading edge pushing it forward for the masses and the mainstream. Widening the dimensions without compromising on the format is challenging - physically and mentally to the accomplished practitioners of the art form. To Rama Vaidyanathan, appealing to purists and progressives, comes easy, for it is in her DNA. This was the first time Atlanta witnessed a Margam - Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Tamil in one production. Knowing Rama, this will not be the last Margam that does not conform to the dimensions that she broke this night in October.
Shows like these are rare, and we need the financial support of art lovers, donors, corporate partners, and the media - in our community to highlight more and raise the bar for classical arts in Atlanta. It is our collective responsibility to educate the audience that a classical dance concert is not an Arangetram or a family affair. And that the level of dancers and musicians goes beyond the few who monopolize the Arangetram circuit. Many in the audience, including various dance schools and dance teachers in Atlanta agreed we needed to do more. The discerning audience did not disappoint, and they chose to be there despite a packed event calendar. Anupa Thakurta and the Deeksha School of Performing Arts’ efforts showed why we need more and how it can be done.
- By Abir Thakurta, Pictures by Venkat Kutta
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