One take a look at the viewers sitting within the open-air venue of the Natyanjali Competition in Chidambaram, and you’re reminded of Nandanar’s emotional plea in Gopalakrishna Bharati’s ‘Varugalamo ayya’ (Can I are available in, Lord?). The favored composition movingly describes ardent devotee Nandanar’s hesitation to enter the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram, as a result of he’s a Dalit. Now, the greater than four-decade-old annual Natyanjali dance competition, is the place the uninitiated fortunately share area with connoisseurs — social inclusivity is the norm.
It was a barely chilly night on the day after Shivaratri (when the competition was inaugurated), and the moon added to the glow of lights on the Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar Belief on South Automobile Road. The competition that originally was held on the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam contained in the Nataraja temple moved to the outer prakaram earlier than shifting to this location in 2015. The stage decor recreated the temple atmosphere.
Sundari, who sells flowers, by no means misses watching the performances annually. “Dance not simply defines Chidambaram, it takes on a particular religious significance right here. By coming right here, we make an providing too,” she says, pushing the basket with some mallipoo nonetheless left below the chair. “Throughout this competition, I don’t anticipate all of it to get bought,” she smiles, shortly adjusting the muffler on her head.
Watch | Natyanjali competition
Autodriver Ponniah doesn’t thoughts forgoing savaaris (prospects) to be right here together with his spouse and two daughters. The aged Thillainathan and his son have come from the close by Bhuvanagiri village only for the dance. Regardless of catering to the classical arts, the competition stays a folks’s occasion. The massive presence of native residents and a free and pleasant vibe lend it a celebratory spirit. A lot of the viewers sits until the final efficiency, having fun with not simply the extra acquainted Bharatanatyam but additionally different classical types.
The items chosen by the artistes are invariably an ode to the cosmic dancer. For example, the younger Ashwitha Krishnan from Bengaluru attracts up Nataraja imageries in her varnam ‘Konjum Salangai’ in raga Lathangi (a composition by Madurai Murlidharan). Her guru Kirti Ramgopal, throughout a post-performance dialog, talks about what the Natyanjali platform means to up-and-coming artistes reminiscent of Ashwitha. “There might be no dance classroom with out an idol of Nataraja. However he’s greater than a spiritual or religious icon, he symbolises the dance of creation, preservation and destruction — the premise of all existence. In his stance lies a deeper understanding of the universe,” says Kirti.
The thought of such a competition was first mooted by arts scholar Kapila Vatsyayan and eminent archaeologist and heritage conservationist, R. Nagaswamy.
A. Sambandam, secretary, Chidambaram Natyanjali Belief, who has been related to the competition since inception, says: “We determined to implement it, realising Chidambaram’s place on the planet of natya. That is the forty second version. And it feels good that the Natyanjali competition has impressed related dance occasions throughout Shivaratri at temples throughout Tamil Nadu. Just like the 4 main entrances in 4 instructions that result in the temple, we too aimed to make artwork accessible to each particular person, concurrently making certain the devotional facet of this natya providing just isn’t misplaced. We give desire to proficient children and dance colleges.”
Senior instructor and choreographer Sheela Unnikrishnan, whose Sridevi Nrithyalaya is understood for its productions, feels that “Each dancer ought to undertake this pilgrimage because it feels surreal to carry out on this temple city. It’s the celebration of historical past, heritage, custom and a dancer’s bond with the artwork.”
“Each time I come right here with my college students, I’m desirous to current one thing new. This 12 months, I specifically choreographed the Kalabhairavar ashtakam,” provides Sheela.
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For Aruna Rekha Varanasy, a Kuchipudi dancer from Mumbai, Chidambaram marks a big and memorable stopover in her journey. “It felt like an internal calling after I received an invite to carry out on this stage. Everytime you rehearse or carry out, you bow to Nataraja, in search of vitality, power and creativeness. And nothing might be extra fulfilling for an artiste to have the ability to dance within the abode of the last word guru.”
That night, Aruna conveyed the essence of some verses from the Lalitha Sahasranamam by way of her massive expressive eyes and seamless movement and precision of her actions.
Just a little previous 10 p.m. when the final recital of the day was in progress, a couple of distributors on the road have been seen having fun with the performances on the display exterior whilst they have been winding as much as depart. The sound of the salangai broke the silence of the evening. As I travelled previous the temple, I realised all of the Thillai is however a stage.