The Dover Lane Music Conference, one of the oldest and most prestigious music festivals, started its journey in 1952. Renowned musicians and dancers performed under this banner and the music lovers of Calcutta used to wait eagerly for this annual festival. Over time, the festival started organizing classical dance performances separately. To give a platform to upcoming dancers, there is also an annual talent search contest to spot different classical dance styles.
To showcase young talented dancers found from the contest along with established dancers, the Festival of Indian Classical Dance was presented at the G.D. Birla Sabhaghar on September 26 and 27. It commenced with a solo Bharatnatyam recital by Anushree Chowdhury. A student of Keya Bhaduri Bhattacharya, Chowdhury started with Ganesh vandana, which is based on Raga Mohona and taal khandachapu. She learnt the kalakshetra style of Bharatnatyam with care and her presentation was neat. It was followed by shabdam, an item which started with a pure dance and went on to an interpretation of the sahitya of the song. Based on Raga Ragamalika, the number depicted the childhood pranks of Krishna. The dancer was mechanical in her abhinaya. She concluded her recital with tillana, the climactic number of the Bharatnatyam repertoire.
The second artist of the evening was Somrita Kushari, a disciple of Sutapa Talukdar. Kushari had an attractive stage presence and her dance movements were graceful and rhythmic. She started off with Shivastuti, an invocation to Lord Shiva, where she created a majestic picture of Shiva through tandav style movements and postures. Based on Raga Charukeshi, the music of the item was brilliantly composed by Bhubaneshwar Mishra. The dance was choreographed by Sutapa Talukdar. The dancer chose “Samudita madane”, an ashtapadi from the Geetgovind. She handled it aptly through her lasya and her eye movements effectively expressed her emotions and feelings.
Radhika Shetty from Mangalore took the stage to perform Bharatnatyam (picture). Shetty had a fresh and lively presence which was enjoyable to watch. Patanjali kauthuvam was her first number, where she described various attributes of the dance of Nataraja in the Chidambaram temple. Her expression was convincing but the vibrancy of the pure dance was missing throughout her performance. Her movements should have been more supple and agile. Radhika portrayed the khandita nayika in a famous ashtapadi, “Ya hi Madhava ya hi Keshava”, which is a favourite item for all dancers. In it, Radha is seen as being angry with Krishna for spending the whole night with another woman. Anger, sorrow, helplessness — the various shades of Radha’s emotions were delicately expressed by the dancer. The dance was choreographed by Bragha Bessell, an exponent of abhinaya from Chennai. Radhika concluded her recital with Ambastuti, where she described the beauty and grandeur of the goddess Rajrajeshwari through an ashtakam written by Adi Shankaracharya.
The concluding presentation of the day was a Kathak group performance to “E ki madhura chhanda”. It was done by Amita Dutt and her troupe. Based on compositions by D.L. Roy, it was well-rehearsed.
The second day of the festival started with a solo Kathak recital by Shreya Bhattacharya, a disciple of Emeli Ghosh. She presented Ganesh vandana, followed by the usual uthaan, paran, gatnikas in vilambit and drut teental and a thumri to showcase her abhinaya. Bhattacharya displayed commendable taiyari and command over rhythm. Her footwork was crisp and her pure dance was praiseworthy. But in a very short span of time it was impossible to do justice to a classical art form which ought to be elaborate and amplified. The organizers should have planned the schedule more judiciously.
The following Kathakali duet performance by two eminent dancers, Kalamandalam Venkitt and Kalamandalam Murali, was long and monotonous; there was little dance in their presentation of Karna-Kunti Sambad. Both of them were brilliant dancers, and the elaborate costumes and make-up found in Kathakali performances created a dramatic impact, but the audience expected to experience a few more sparks of their calibre. Venkitt as Kunti was in streevesham with his usual flair. Bimbavati Devi, a serious and sincere Manipuri dancer, staged Amitajyoti, a group presentation, inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s Biswa Parichay. It has been reviewed earlier.
The festival came to an end with an Odissi and Kathak duet by Alokparna Guha and Nandini Ghosal. Choreographed by the dancers themselves, three items were presented in two different dance styles. Nandini had a charming presence with her precise chauk, tribhangi, mudras and postures, through which the Odissi style was reflected gracefully. Alokparna had a command over her style but the chemistry between the two dancers was not very strong. Thus, their duet presentation failed to be impressive.