Here is a critique by Kshithi Venkatesh, another dancer.
The Bharatanatyam concert organized by Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation was something I had been waiting for. Hailing from Bangalore, which is one of the cultural capitals for classical music and dance, I was accustomed to watching at least a couple of concerts each month. After moving to Bentonville, I had not watched a full Margam for over a year and my mind was absolutely craving for one. I have known Megha P. Rao, the performer, for a couple of years and was excited that she was going to perform a full margam showcasing the navarasas – the nine principal emotions shown through dance - Shringaram (romance), Haasyam (comedy), Raudram (anger), Kaarunyam (compassion), Bheebhatsam (disgust), Bhayaanakam (fear), Veeram (valor), Adbhutam (wonder) and Shaantham (peace)
I reached the venue a few minutes before the starting of the concert. When I entered the hall of the concert, I was disappointed to see hardly 10 people in the audience which was quite a contrast to what I was used to seeing back home. The theater was cozy, creating the right atmosphere for a dance performance. Megha opened the Margam with a Navarasa Swaraguccha, a compilation of Soundarya Lahari shlokas. The choice of the opening piece was very apt and Megha presented the item with a good blend of intricate Abhinaya and simple Nritta.
The next presentation that Megha performed was a DevaraNama on Lord Hanuman. This item was the first to expose the intricacies and poise of abhinaya presented by Megha during the rest of the evening. The very near to life depiction of Hanuman, his mannerisms as a mere monkey and the quick transitions from the primitive form to the all-powerful witty Hanuman were noteworthy and definitely gave a good laugh to the audience. The item was well structured and gave a good appreciation for the Haasya rasa.
The next piece was a Padam on Goddess Kali which was an amalgamation of Bhayaanaka, Bheebhatsa and Veera rasas. It was well choreographed and rendered. It is quite unusual to see a padam on this theme and before the varnam. But the choice of song and choreography fitted well in the margam.
The Varnam is always the central piece of any margam. It brings together all the different facets of dance together and gives the dancer enough time explore each one, whether natyam, nritta, or abhinaya. The song, Shri Krishna Kamalanatho, talks of the glories of Shri Krishna - stories of his birth, his mischief with the gopikas stealing their clothes, his slaying of Putana amongst others. Megha did full justice to the abhinaya affirming her forte is expressions. Nevertheless, the jathis could have been more intricate and longer to highlight the dancer’s hold on nritta and tala. Overall the varnam was very well received by the audience which had swelled by now.
Megha moved on to perform the next piece which was a Jayadeva Ashtapadi. This was a very intense Shringara piece depicting an intimate rendezvous between Krishna and Radha. Megha’s proficiency in emoting was highlighted in the exemplary balance she maintained in depicting intense Shringara movements and emotions and still keeping it dignified.
Megha then moved on to perform a popular tune on Lord Venkateshwara, the famous Tamil poem by Rajaji, Kurai Ondrum Illai. Highlighting the Karunya and Bhakthi rasa this piece started off with the heart-warming story of an aged devotee who is escorted by the Lord himself while he was walking by foot to reach the Thirupthu shrine. Megha left the audience in tears with her depiction of the Lord’s manifestation in front of the devotee.
The last piece was a fast paced Thillana in Sindhu Bhairavi and Mangalam which gave a traditional ending to the dance recital. With her brisk movements and neat presentation, Megha impressed the audition with her nritta after they were already awed by her abhinaya.
Overall, the whole performance was a treat to a dance lover. The music was brilliant and the choice of items was well thought out. Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation has done a great job in putting a performance of this nature together. I am looking forward to more such events in 2019.