Review of Sujatha Srinivasan's Dance Recital at Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana April 16 2006.

Fanfare of tradition, culture and sentiments

Every year beginning with Good Friday, the connoisseurs of Carnatic music and dance spring forward and congregate at the Saint Thyagaraja Aradhana event spectacular in Cleveland,OH, quite adeptly hosted by only a handful of passion driven, motivated and competent volunteers of the Aradhana Committee and the indigenous inspired members of Bhairavi Fine Arts.

Besides the extensive array of concerts presented by highly accomplished maestro-marvels from Madras music environs, Bharatanatyam, a close artistic sibling of Carnatic music, has been seen to materialize as a segment of the program line-up.

The Waetjen Recital Hall at the Cleveland State University in Downtown Cleveland where the events are held during the first weekend, has launched quite a few music and dance artistes of high esteem over the years. Perhaps the organizers concurred that it was time to stage one of their own pride of the community and their wishful thinking actualized this year.

The Cleveland Aradhana limelight having been adorned by Chennai’s classical dance stalwarts like Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali, Dr. Padma Subramanian, Prof. C. V. Chandrasekhar and Padmashri Alarmel Valli in the past, this year’s artiste had an acclivous assignment to ascend to such a fraternity of artistes and she accomplished that with great finesse. The Bharatanatyam dance recital presented with exceptional élan by Smt. Sujatha Srinivasan on Sunday, 16th April 2006 saw quite a few delighted cognoscenti in the audience put their hands together in affirmation.

Following the initial invocation number in gambheera naattai in sankeerna naDai, Sujatha performed AaDamoDi Galade Ramaiyya in chaarukeshi in which she portrays how Rama is indifferent to the narrator, Thyagaraja’s, words of devotion, how he even treated his own good friend Aanjaneya in the same way, and how his frail self is no match for the powerful Hanuman. Sujatha’s portrayal of Thyagaraja’s passionate pleas was an excellent definition of suggestive abhinaya -- tender and convincing, coaxing the audience into understanding the great composer’s deep emotional plight.

Next, Sujatha presented the very traditional Daanike varnam set in thoDi raagam composed by Thanjavur Shivanandam. She depicted the dhuti bhava of the sakhi, as narrator of the piece, playing a match-maker and describing to the great historical King Shivaji, how her friend is the best possible bride for the great MaraaTa ruler. The complex aDavus strung together with solid traditional unencumbered technique to form the jatis in an effortless rendition. The training that she received under illustrious gurus and the years of in-depth research and teaching have proven both inspiring and amply worthwhile.

The 19th century composer Kavi Kunjara Bharati’s Ivan Yaaro in kaamboji raagam was a shringaara rasa delineation of the entranced nayaki’s yearning to identify the image of a handsome, eminent dignitary in a courtly cavalcade whom she wishes is her beloved Lord Vishnu.

Varugalaamo composed by Gopalakrishna Bharati in maanji raagam was quite a tear-jerker. Her characterization of the devout but irresolute Nandanar, oppressed by a misanthropic society, whose only longing desire is to get one transitory glimpse of his favorite deity Lord Shiva, was very touching and transported us to an elevated realm of spirituality.

Shankara Shri giri in hamsanandi composed by Swati Thirunal was a treat for the senses with the majestic dance of Lord Shiva. It is to be proudly acclaimed that Swati Thirunal has the innate ability to produce numbers congruous to the ardor of the scene. Sujatha’s plethora of poses were impeccable and brought before our very eyes the brilliant spectacle of the Lord of Dance dancing in his golden Chittasabha as his domicile in Chidambaram.

Balamurali’s thillana in kadanakuduhalam was an appropriate finale to the evening’s show. Sujatha was very much at ease with the joyous and expeditious number such as this as with the other items in the recital, which perceptibly exhibited her consummate panorama of balletic stagecraft.

The orchestra consisting of Asha Ramesh who rendered all her songs with soulful bhaavam and remarkable pronunciation, Akhila Raghavan on the naTTuvaangam with her lucid and intelligible catenation of rhythmic syllables admirably verbalized as jatis, Janardhan Rao on the mridangam who exercised his digital dexterity to offer phenomenal rhythmic support, Thyagarajan with his awesome phrases, facile on the bamboo flute and Jayshankar with his seamless blend-in were all magical and aggrandized the stratum of the show that night.

Another significant highlight of the program was how Sujatha’s daughter Shriya’s presentment of the show as the MC with her meticulous diction and the flawless description of each item, all brought in with incredible verve.

The show overall was an outstanding Easter treat that resurrected and redeemed our souls from the mundane world of monotony. It would be befitting to comment on the entertaining evening as one well spent and in summary, I wish to borrow and re-quote from one of the the greatest works of literature in tamil, ThirukkuraL, thus:

Kuzhal Inidu Yaazh Inidu enbar nam
Sujatha’vin Bharatanaatyam paaraadavar!