REDISCOVERING A NEAR-EXTINCT DANCE FORM
scent of life is seeping into Andhra Natyam - the
near-extinct classical dance form of Hyderabad. Nataraj
Ramakrishna, an exponent of Bharatanatyam, is chiefly
responsible for this renaissance. Efforts are being made
to absorb the essence of this art not only from the ancient
treatise Nritta-Ratnavali, written in 12th century
A.D. by Jayappa Senani, the devout disciple of
dance-guru Kumdayamartya, but also from the stone
sculptures of Ramappa temple in Warangal district
and the former temple dancers now living in isolation.
What is Andhra Natyam?
in Hyderabad have always represented Telugu art and
culture. Live performances by ganikas, the exponents
of different dance forms were an inherent part of worship.
And Kelikas (intellectual dances) were
used for Parijatams (education) by the
kings as well as the common people. Andhra Natyam was
performed in two traditions. The Lasya tradition
performed gracefully by learned dancers in honour of God Vishnu and the vigorous Perini Shiva
Tandavam performed exclusively by the Kshatriyas, the warrior class of the society to invoke Lord
Shiva and seek his blessings for strength, valour and
success in battles. Nataraj Ramakrishna, now 67, has
assiduously trained worthy disciples to carry on the
practice and propagate Andhra Natyam in both the traditions
of Lasya and Perini.
Lasya: A solo dance tradition normally performed
by accomplished dancers well versed in Telugu, Sanskrit,
music and Natya, Rasa and Alankar
Shastras. The performance begins with nritta (pure dance) andproceeds tonritya (interpretation)
and abhinaya (expression). The dancers performed
educative pieces called keikas. To educate the
common people, the dancers demonstated art forms drawn
from the rich Indian folklore and mythology.
Ramakrishna has trained a worthy shishya (student) Kala Krishna who has now mastered the Lasya tradition
of Andhra Natyam. Navajanardana Parijatam, that
interprets the well known mythological theme of Krishna
and his glamorous consort Satyabhama, brings
out the best in Andhra Natyam. As Satyabhama, the otherwise
handsome and manly Kala Krishna is transformed into
the epitome of feminine beauty, grace and charm. His
performance of Navajanardana Parijatam has already been documented for posterity by the National
Council for Performing Arts.
The Perini: Normally performed in
groups, this dance requires vivacity, energy and lasting
stamina. Performed only by male dancers, it begins with gargara and concludes with a Shiva Panchamukha
Shabda Nartanam in praise of Lord
Shiva. The artist displays a perfection of the "art
of flexibility" with reverberating beats, forceful
footwork, fast paced energetic leaps and gyrations leaving
the viewers spellbound.