Dramatic renditions come to life

Interactive session

Expressive Rathna Kumar An interactive session with famous kuchipudi dancer Rathna Kumar was recently held at the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, as a part of the third edition of Dance Discourse.

The evening, which included some short film-strips, a dance performance and even a discussion, focussed on the different style and technique-related changes which had slowly entered the world of kuchipudi.

She especially focussed on how the dance had transformed from a village tradition to a concert form, and how it had also become a form of drama.

The evening began with a few short films, most of which showed Rathna Kumar performing at different ages. The first half had her dancing as a young girl, and in the second part, she was a young woman.

In the first, she was dressed up as a young Krishna, and the video showed her dancing with a few gopis. There was also a portrayal of the scene wherein Krishna makes his friends form a human pyramid and climbs on top of them to steal butter from a pot hung from the ceiling.

The other clips included a dance piece that she had choreographed herself, as well as a clip of her performing the famous tharangam, wherein the dancer stands on a brass plate and dances on its rim.

After the clips were shown, Rathna Kumar herself took the stage and began listing some of the ways in which kuchipudi had changed over the years — as well as her own style of dancing. From a village tradition, the dance has slowly evolved to a highly-detailed, dramatic rendition that is performed in concerts.

She mentioned the changes that had come into her own style of dancing as well. Most kuchipudi numbers involve the dancer holding her own braid, which is why many dancers wear their hair very long.

However, Rathna Kumar had dispensed of this. Also, she has stopped the practice of singing the words of the song along with her dance, because she feels that she can portray emotions much better when she stays silent.

However, she maintained that the traditional passion that the dance involved was still the same, and that she intended to highlight the dramatic angle of her performance.

She began her performance with a self-choreographed krishna bhakti. Although her own guru preferred dances which were devoted to Shiva, she said that no kuchipudi recital was complete without krishna bhakti.

During the dance, her expression remained one of wondrous devotion and she mimicked different aspects of worship, like tossing flower petals on an idol.

Throughout her performance, she also made sure she highlighted the drama of the dance, through her emotions and body language.

The performance was followed by an interactive session with the audience and the London-based dancer Chitra Sundaram.

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