Friday, 27 April 2018

Evoking a feel of the Sadir dancer's joi de vivre - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Sandhya Raman's Art Studio has been a venue for some out- of- the way evenings of dance. Now with one end of the L shaped hall given a neatly erected wooden stage just a foot above the floor level with the audience seated on modhas in front, the performer has his/her space defined, with the intimate ambience preserved. And marking Tamil New Year's day, was a most entertaining evening of Stories that take a form devised and performed by scholar /performer Swarnamalya Ganesh from Chennai, who with years of research into the cultural, sociological, political history of what we call Bharatanatyam today, has worked at trying to reconstruct the old avatars of the dance - this evening's concern being with its manifestation as Sadir performed by the devadasis - the period dealt with being roughly from early 1700 till about 1920. In the then Madras Presidency, the dance had a very visible presence. The old diaries, records and gazetteers contain plenty of scattered bits of information and culling the details to be able to get out of it sufficient material to construct a dance edifice, is the unstinting work of Swarnamalya who acknowledges generously the help of other researchers of history, Tamil literature etc in this effort.

The memories from the past began right from the introduction to each item, the dancer's histrionics bringing alive the British dorai and the plantation owner, the Dubhash or any character featured in the interaction. The story begins with The Luz House of Moddaverappa Venkatasami Naidu, where several kutcheris were held - a famous place visited by renowned musicians like Sonti Venkataramana and even Tyagaraja. 

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