Christopher Gurusamy: Ananda, dance of joy

A unique Bharatanatyam recital, and a wonderfully fitting title

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The ultimate purpose of any art is Ananda, or joy. Dance can bring it in abundant measure when the subject matter, composition, music, and dance techniques all recede to the background and work towards creating a sense of bliss and of timelessness, in the viewer.

That is what transpired during the recital of Christopher Gurusamy at Darlinghurst Theatre on 26 April. He performed to a packed audience, six dances, all of the Bharatanatya genre under the most fitting title – Ananda, Dance of Joy.

Having said that, it was not a usual Indian dance recital. There was a novelty.

The very first item, Origins, deviated from all norms and went on to explore the origins of our universe. What do the original people of Australia say? What do the Tamils of 3000 years ago say? What is written in our Rig Veda about it? It was an excellent piece of choreography by Christopher himself. The idea of a distant past was very clear in the lighting designed for the item. Christopher danced this item with simple hand movements to the jathis, tanam and shlokas. It had a psychic appeal, and the looks of a modern ballet.

Christopher Gurusamy
(Source: Supplied)

Varnam – Sami Nan Undan Adimei that followed and the concluding Thillana were somewhat formal and had all the elements of a typical Bharatanatyam recital.

Varnam is the item set aside for the dancer to showcase his entire dance skillset. The number chosen by Christopher for his Varnam is a very traditional one and one that has been performed several times. In it, a devotee (lover) of Lord Shiva expresses her desire, expectation, surprise, disgust and anger towards her lord in a multitude of ways. It is for the dancer to bring out all these feelings through Abhinaya and at the same time perform Natya or abstract dance movements. Christopher executed these effortlessly. Alternating between Natya and Abhinaya, he brought out all the flavours of the composition eloquently.

Christopher Gurusamy
(Source: Supplied)

To start with, the devotee (a lover too) pleads with Lord Shiva, “The entire world knows that I am your slave, you too are aware of this.” Then she begs him not to delay any longer. In the end, comes the confession, “I have spent uttering your Namamrita just to see your feet.” Christopher’s portrayal of these feelings came out as a great drama. One did not require any knowledge of music or dance to appreciate this central piece of the performance. It was a drama of human emotions.

Thillana in Raga Senjurutti was equally entertaining with several picturesque poses and swift movements.

Yarukagilum was a splendid short piece full of Abhinaya, where a lover comes to know from her friends and others that the entire town is gossiping about her. She responds by saying, “What do I care? There is no secret about it. I am blessed to love a king and he loves me too.” In Christopher’s dance, we saw a lovelorn woman scoffing at her critics and enemies. His movements across the stage, facials and hand movements were typical. It was as though we were in some city corner of an ancient land. The audience, mostly women in splendid costumes, would have been envious of his gestures, I’m sure.

Ninnu Juda by Kshetrayya in Raga Ponnagavarali was delivered in freestyle without any persuasion. Gopis express their longing for Krishna even sensuously.

Christopher Gurusamy
(Source: Supplied)

Christopher used mostly hand and facial movements as he remained seated on the floor.

Christopher Gurusamy’s Sangam poem was about an elephant that refused to enter the town with its victorious king. Having been severely injured in the war, it thinks it would become a laughing stock for its girlfriends. Marking this item were Christopher’s acting as the king on his chariot accepting greetings from the public, and the elephant’s movements.

Music for the performance was pre-recorded with vocal rendering by Aditya Madhavan, violin by Madan Mohan, Kanjira by Anirudh Athreya, Nattuvangam by K P Rakesh and Mridangam by Kiran Pai. Jathis for several items were composed by Arjunan Puveendran. Christopher Gurusamy and Bragha Bessel shared choreographing.

As I write this two days after the performance, the scenes of a caveman searching for his origins, a woman begging her lover to appear before her, and another woman dismissing the gossipers stand before my eyes. Truly a unique dance recital.

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