Sreelakshmy Govardhanam ”“ a treat for all the senses

 

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A consummate Kuchipudi dancer, Sreelakshmy Govardhanam, a treat to watch, her dance, her abhinaya and presentation stole the show leaving Sydney audience mesmerised by her performance

By Aruna Iyengar
As a Kuchipudi Dancer in Sydney, it is a rare treat to get to see another Kuchipudi artist, especially one who has gotten in touch with the roots of Kuchipudi, in the village from which it hails.   Sreelakshmy Govardhanan was a treat to all my senses – so much so that I didn’t want her performance to end, having experienced all the emotions she portrayed through her items as well as my own sense of awe which manifested through both tears and goose bumps, watching her dance.

Throughout her performance, I could see her technique was very similar to what I had learnt from disciples  of the late Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, and which is what I know and teach my students.  I loved her thorough and delightful explanations before each item, through which she totally engaged the audience, and her wonderful abhinaya. She enacted every character, every transition, and all of them coming through as totally genuine.

When she entered for the ‘Sita Pravesha Dharavu’ holding her own curtain, I remember thinking – oh no, we should have done that for her! having had two of my students do that for me once when I performed the Bhamakalapam. It was a delightful item, describing Sita; I just wished it had gone longer. Sreelakshmy is the epitome of Kuchipudi grace – her footwork firm when it needs to be, her Aramandi strong, yet her body supple and fluid as is typical for the Kuchipudi style.

The Mandodari Sabdam again was explained beautifully by Sreelakshmy, and executed exquisitely. The way she showed each of the forest animals was delightful; probably the best I have ever seen from a Kuchipudi artist. Her depiction of Ravana and Mandodari – especially the transitions between each character was outstanding.   When she showed all 20 of Ravana’s hands reaching out and then coming together in respect to Mandodari, I could visualize all of  the 20 arms of Ravana as she brought out the character so well through her dancing.

I was very excited to see her  Siggayeno Dharavu – there are many stories that follow on after the ‘Bhamakalapam’ – one of the most famous items in Kuchipudi, about one of Kuchipudi’s favourite heroines, Satyabhama. As said by Sreelakshmy, Satyabhama is an arrogant and proud woman, well aware of her incomparable beauty. Yet the character we saw in the Siggayeno Dharavu was a different Bhama – one who wanted her friend to find her husband with whom she had fought; yet she was too shy to say his name.   The beautiful way in which Sreelakshmy portrayed that shy Satyabhama – it was a revelation.   I found myself grinning along with her, as she covered her face and beseeched her friend to find ‘Him’ for her.

The final item, the Krishna Stuthi, in the Tarangam format, was well worth the wait.   The story of Poothana was beautifully portrayed – the way she transitioned from Rakshashi to a beautiful Apsara; and then her enchantment with all that was in Vrindavan.   But the most powerful part of this Sanchari episode was watching the agony going through Poothana’s body, once Krishna has suckled at her breast, and thus the action kills her. Sreelakshmy powerfully showed the pain coursing through different parts of the body; in fact at one point, the music stopped for a few seconds, and you could hear Sreelakshmy’s moan of agony in the silent theatre, as she fully immersed herself in the pain the body experienced,  thus demonstrating  that no abhinaya is convincing if the dancer is not  involved and feeling the character all the way through. Her abhinaya was not on the surface; it was complete and from every pore of her being. And I felt every emotion, every transition, every story.

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Her Thambalam or Brass Plate component was also well executed and she showed she had confidence in moving around the stage.

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It was a real shame that due to the program running behind schedule, she had to cut out her Annamayya Keerthanam as I am sure it would also have been exquisite. She is a dancer I will be seeking out if she performs in Chennai in December, as her performance was for me, the highlight of the 2016 MAPA (Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts) Sydney Dance Festival.

 

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