Her representation takes the centre stage

Fusion Swagathas as new art is intricate in form and expression.

Call it women empowerment, a concept that stems from intense research in art, epics and ancient literature to portray heroines in the right light. And the most unique feature of this concept is ‘Swagathas,’ a solo thematic theatre presented as a fusion of dance forms and singing.

Bhramari Shivaprakash, an emerging star in the field of the new school of thought in Indian classical dance forms, explains how Swaghatas work: “Swagatha in Sanskrit translates into ‘introspection’ in English. The Swagathas of Panchali, Devayani, Urvashi and Sita are the stories as told by themselves in their own timelines, the dancer has to portray the joys, sorrows, ordeals and dichotomies faced by the heroines single-handedly as it is a solo act.

What is more challenging is to enact the other character in the story depicting the Swagatha without lapse of any time or dance step to keep up the flow. Here, the dancer takes the audience through a series of scenes presenting the navarasas of the ballet. Both the audience and the dancer take this challenge together and the end result is the total integration.”

Exceptional role

One of the popular Swagathas is Panchali. The Swayamvara is a special scene, in which the main contenders are Arjuna, Karna and Duryodhana. “I like the Panchali Swagatha; Panchali or Draupadi is a very strong character and she is an embodiment of struggle, valour, it does not mean you need to be a hardcore feminist to define her through your solo act, if the dancer could ingest her feelings, the act is done,” says Bhramari. The abhinaya takes the frontal role in a Swagatha. Bhramari’s medium of expression is Bharatanatyam.

“In the Swagathas of Devayani, Urvashi and Damayanthi or any other character like the Jwala in the Jaimini Bharatha episode of Pandava Ashwamedha Yaga, the characterisation of the heroines are well-defined and enacting them solo along with the events of their lives comes naturally to a female artiste which is where Swagathas become an important medium of expression,” she says. “Swagathas are new generation dance forms,” says Vasundhara Doraswami, a Bharatnatyam teacher. “The students now are very creative and resourceful, they choose Swagathas that give them the freedom to choose their act. Swagathas are intricate in presentation and performance. For effectively portraying the character, the artiste must know the dialogues, facial expressions, movements and emotions.

Most importantly, the artistes will have to stay within the framework of classical standards or values of whichever form of dance they choose.” Bhramari acknowledges the support of her father, Udyavara Madhava Acharya, who conceptualised and penned Swagathas, embellishing them with classical nuances in Sanskrit and Kannada. “Satyavati, Kunthi, Gandhari and Sita Swagathas give another dimension to the feminine characters,” Bhramari says.

Udyavara Madhava Acharya says, “The journey of Swagathas, that too of the feminine characters, began with Arundathi in the 1980s, which was more based on the social implications of her caste and her marriage to sage Vasishtha. After so many Swagathas featuring the brave women in a man’s world, I am now preparing the Swagatha of Chitrangada, titled Chitrangadeya Valagannadi to show how a woman’s masculine side is turned down by the man (Arjuna) she adored.”

The new Swagatha is now being processed for staging through Samooha, his production ensemble. Bhramari’s own improvisation of the stage has gained the appreciation of art and theatre enthusiasts, the fusion of Folk, Bharatanatyam and Yakshagana. And she owes this credit to her Bharatanatyam Guru late K B Madhava Rao and her current Guru Dr Vasundhara Doraswamy who has trained her in the intricacies of both Shastra (theory) and Prayoga (practice).

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