TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT SHARPENS THE INNER EYE

 
It was a humbling experience for the entire audience at Stein auditorium on the second evening of Impresario India’s annual National Festival of Creative Art watching the five visually challenged male performers from Bangalore presenting dance with light hearted joy and command not always seen in dancers with all their faculties intact. As the personable young men, aesthetically garbed in an white and orange skirt kind of outfit with artistically fashioned headdress of the same white and orange decorated with silver dots with tasselled contraptions hanging over the ears, entered the stage carrying the ‘Jharjara’ to be ceremonially placed on a side of the stage (symbolising the weapon of Lord Indra) as per the ritual mentioned in the Natya Sastra for protection of and sanctifying stage space accompanied with the sprinkling of holy water, with the salutations in chants in raga Revati to invoke Indra, Agni, Yama, Nairutti, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera, Ishanya, deities of all the eight directions being recited on tape, one witnessed the ease with which the performers moved on the stage without colliding with each other . The ability to come together in formations and to disperse maintaining equidistance between dancers was amazing.

The Ganesh invocation with each dancer in turns visualising one attribute of this God with the coming together portraying the ‘mooshika’ and Ganesh with his trunk and hands holding sweetmeat balls, had the same unruffled rendition with the music, simple and melodic. More ambitious in spacing and choreography was the item on Krishna’s Lilas, with the simple lilting music in Mohanam. Revealing the many sided God whose divine deeds co-exist with such human qualities, here was the romancer, the war strategist, the philosopher of the Bhagavat Gita, entwined in the same entity. The performers in a row one behind the other, with each coming out of the group to portray and freeze, visualising the symbolism of a specific avatar from the Dasavatar , made a fine ending. A Tillana in Kapi with more challenging rhythm patterns concluded the dance part, which was followed by a simple rhythmic cymbal playing, and finally a Thang- ta and Kalaripayattu- inspired sword and shield wielding martial art presentation. The story leading to this wonderful triumph of human spirit was a heart rending one. Hailing from a rural background, one became blind thanks to parents not being able to afford treatment after a relapse of Typhoid when five years old. One was born blind but entered a School for the Blind, studied further for masters and entered the Karnataka administrative service, One who taking care of two blind brothers stumbled on a rock full of dung, had a fall and the faecal matter of cattle going into his eyes blinded him too like his brothers. Parents would not allow him outside the house, but running away from home, he went to Bangalore, fought his way up and to-day runs his own travel agency. Yet another became blind because of the desperate mother who, unable to get a ninth child aborted because she was already too far gone in pregnancy, swallowed pesticides to kill herself. She gave birth to a blind child and died soon later. This boy too moved to Bangalore and made out a life for himself by joining this dance troupe. The dance interest came through an accident. A young blind boy, unable to find a playmate, and indulge in activity expressing the exuberance of youthful energy in him, would lock himself up in a classroom after school hours and run from one end of the room to the other – turning back every time he ran into the wall to run back – his head bruised by hitting the solid wall so many times. Seeing this the teacher tried to teach the boy some movements which would help him find an outlet for his energy. The principal encouraged these blind boys to come together, though he himself was not specially trained to teach such children. The boys themselves through this interaction gave useful hints to the good Samaritan on what they wanted to learn and how one could teach them. And thus was a wonderful bond formed. Mysore B.Nagaraj Artistic Director and Suparna Venkatesh who is the choreographer for the group, have done a creditable job. These men travelling all over the world have shown people that developing the inner eye can more than compensate for not having normal sight. They lead full lives and what is more there is a human pride here which is heart filling to experience.

This programme with a standing ovation from the audience was followed by the Gotipua(s) of the Nakshatra troupe from Odisha trained under Bijoy Kumar Sahu. As usual, the wonderful acrobatic display of Bandha-nritta by these youngsters charmed the audience.

Impresario India perhaps had greater satisfaction from this evening than they have had from all the dance groups they have sponsored in this festival so far.

LEELA VENKATARAMAN
 

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