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ANDHRA NATYAM

REDISCOVERING A NEAR-EXTINCT DANCE FORM

Nataraj  RamakrishnaA scent of life is seeping into Andhra Natyam - the near-extinct classical dance form of Hyderabad. Nataraj Ramakrishna, an exponent of Bharatanatyam, is chiefly responsible for this renaissance. Efforts are being made to absorb the essence of this art not only from the ancient treatise Nritta-Ratnavali, written in 12th century A.D. by Jayappa Senani, the devout disciple of dance-guru Kumdayamartya, but also from the stone sculptures of Ramappa temple in Warangal district and the former temple dancers now living in isolation.



What is Andhra Natyam?

Temples in Hyderabad have always represented Telugu art and culture. Live performances by ganikas, the exponents of different dance forms were an inherent part of worship. And Kelikas (intellectual dances) were used for Parijatams (education) by the kings as well as the common people. Andhra Natyam was performed in two traditions. The Lasya tradition performed gracefully by learned dancers in honour of God Vishnu and the vigorous Perini Shiva Tandavam performed exclusively by the Kshatriyas, the warrior class of the society to invoke Lord Shiva and seek his blessings for strength, valour and success in battles. Nataraj Ramakrishna, now 67, has assiduously trained worthy disciples to carry on the practice and propagate Andhra Natyam in both the traditions of Lasya and Perini.

Kalakrishna - The LasyaThe Lasya: A solo dance tradition normally performed by accomplished dancers well versed in Telugu, Sanskrit, music and Natya, Rasa and Alankar Shastras. The performance begins with nritta (pure dance) andproceeds tonritya (interpretation) and abhinaya (expression). The dancers performed educative pieces called keikas. To educate the common people, the dancers demonstated art forms drawn from the rich Indian folklore and mythology.





Nataraj Ramakrishna has trained a worthy shishya (student) Kala Krishna who has now mastered the Lasya tradition of Andhra Natyam. Navajanardana Parijatam, that interprets the well known mythological theme of Krishna and his glamorous consort Satyabhama, brings out the best in Andhra Natyam. As Satyabhama, the otherwise handsome and manly Kala Krishna is transformed into the epitome of feminine beauty, grace and charm. His performance of Navajanardana Parijatam has already been documented for posterity by the National Council for Performing Arts.

The Perini: Normally performed in groups, this dance requires vivacity, energy and lasting stamina. Performed only by male dancers, it begins with gargara and concludes with a Shiva Panchamukha Shabda Nartanam in praise of Lord Shiva. The artist displays a perfection of the "art of flexibility" with reverberating beats, forceful footwork, fast paced energetic leaps and gyrations leaving the viewers spellbound.

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