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Dance > Review
Natyasangraham 2014 Revisited
17 February, 2014

-Sukanya Kumar

Amidst a busy life with multiple commitments, college, tests, exams and performances; comes the Natyasangraham camp! A reprieve for most young dancers, to delve deeper into the art, away from worldly chaos towards an out of the world experience!  Conceived and conducted by Natyarangam, the dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha, annually at Tennangur, a temple town about 100 kms from Chennai.

The core committee consists of Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, S. Janaki, Major Balasubramanian & Kalpagam, K.S Subramanian, Charukesi and Kannan. Prof. C.V Chandrasekar is the convenor. Their unified effort with R. Krishnaswamy at the helm provides this unique opportunity to the dance fraternity and we are thankful for the wonderful experience which could be spelt out but not described in mere words.

As per the lucid rules and conditions we each fitted in our dance and personal accessories in “one bag or a small suitcase” After reporting at Narada Gana Sabha; the initial tentative smiles at the new faces, introductions; locking eyes with a few familiar faces from dance fraternity, reconnections with fellow past participants and committee members; a welcome hot cup of tea with preliminary homework discussions, we boarded the bus.

The initial inhibition smoothly eases to a sense of camaraderie and the “I” becomes “We” pretty soon.

The bus ride was a bit bumpy and shaky, maybe the the bus too was in a dancing mood too! Karyashala or the workshop agenda was given, and the mention of the Swarna rathothavam in the usual spot of Garuda Sevai increased our enthusiasm tenfold!

We experience the narrowing of roads and the widening of fields as we leave Chennai. Steaming aromatic coffee on arrival at Thennangur augured well for more and more epicurean delights for the next three days. Before this welcome session we were invigorated with a warm bath and blessed with the first darshan of Panduranga dressed in the royal blue! After this we assembled for the introductory meeting in the huge hall with life size statues and were awe struck at the mammoth size of the idols.

The introductory session laid stress on punctuality and forewarned us to keep a watch on our food intake as the taste would make us a glutton and sleepy during sessions.

We dispersed for dinner and had a hearty go at the delicious fare throwing caution to winds. We hit the sack with a content heart and stomach.

Over the three days we had sessions where; Jyotsana Narayanan dealing with Angika Yoga. She continued with last year’s concept of the ‘sutra’ or the central alignment that is key to awareness in anything we do. “Yoga Karma Sukaushalam” was the teaching to take back. 

Prof. C V Chandrasekhar spoke about the nuances of Satvika or the inner experience and outer reflection of Bhava and Rasa. He emphasized on minimizing hand gestures and speaking through the eye. He also demonstrated the power of silence, apt music and reaction to music in abhinaya through Ashtapathis, padams and kritis. 

The heirs of the legend Lalgudi G Jayaraman, Lalgudi G J R Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi spanned topics from raga, composition, emotion, inherent laya of music to overcoming limitations and exploiting the full potential of the instruments, taalam and korvai structures. 

Leela Samson made the participants revisit our ancestral working patterns using exercises drawing from them. She also demonstrated the use of breath, conservation of energy and right emphasis at the right places in adavus. She along with Prof. C V Chandrasekhar also spoke about how dance impacts the persona. 

Vani Ganapathy gave inputs and guidance on apt and suitable make-up according to various factors like skin tone, lights, stage space, all of which are very personal.  Her advice to use certain varieties of make-up and accessories was very helpful and was an eye-opener to the performers. 

Trichy Sankaran, with excerpts of konnakol gave an intriguing teaser to the vast world of Laya and its multitude of aspects. He spoke about how compositions now-a-days borrow but that the essence of Jathis and korvai sollukattus shoulf always be kept in mind to suit the mood of the piece. 

Sudha Seshayyan in the vaachika session analysed tamil poetry and moved on to dealing with the various layers of understanding and interpreting poetry. The shabdartha, vaakyartha, padartha are all integral to understand both the explicit and the implicit meaning of a composition. 

Evening performances were very interesting with the participants showcasing their choreography skills within a stipulated time frame. The resource guides and Gurus gave valuable tips for improvement, pointed out corrections and the words were so encouraging that every performer was motivated to do better.

The evenings at the temple were elevating and left us mesmerized. Dolotsvam, the Oonjalsevai with music by Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi and Trichy Sankaran was a special fare and set feet tapping. We have heard Lalgudi’s music often and many have used the compositions they played in their dance endeavors but hearing the trio live and having them play while we got a chance to dance was a different experience. C V Sir propelled this session with abhinaya for a beautiful varnam. We just got dancing various items, Kummi, Bhajans, padams, Stories churned out impromptu and abhinaya to suit them.

Day 2 saw us going round the Praharam, again dancing with the grand Swarna Ratham or the golden chariot to mark 18 years of the Thennangoor temple and 15th year of the Nrityotsavam. We witnessed some rare traditional instruments and the local participation and spot choreography to Nadaswaram music was simply an uplifting experience. The involvement of the Gurus was a lesson to learn. The Palanquin swaying on the shoulders of the priest made for misty eyes. 

In the valedictory function, certificates were distributed to the participants. Final thoughts were shared. Mobile numbers, mail ids and promises to be in touch were exchanged. The namavali was sung as usual before our final meal together. We finally reconciled to parting with heavy hearts. But I knew that this trip is not the final one.

Dance for dance’s sake was the mantra with no consciousness of the viewers. There was no playing to the galleries. All for dance, and dance for all!

After a celebration of the dance art in a divine location, we returned to the hurry burry of the city. Back to dreary routine, waiting for the next year’s NatyaSangraham. All good things necessarily come to an end only to begin afresh.

We were all in a state of euphoria and when we landed at about 5.30 pm outside NaradaGanaSabha, getting into argument with the auto person about fares brought us back to reality.   

We only await the next bus ride, the performances, the lush green fields, the hospitable local folk, the homework, friends, teachers, village children, the temple spire of Lord Panduranga and Rukmini, Tirupathi balaji and Thaayar or Maharaja with turbans and regal accessories with a royal sword and Rukumaji, queen of North.

They all have something profound to whisper in return for simple devotion to the Art that is larger than life!

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