The Thyagaraja Ramayana is one of my oldest solo performances,” explains Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant. “It has travelled a lot and is my best known production.”
It is with this performance that Jayant will open the two-day epic dance festival at Shanmukhananda Hall on November 15. “The Thyagaraja Ramayana is an ekaharya or a mono drama. It is based on Carnatic music legend Thyagaraja’s vision of the Ramayana. It is the story of Rama, but also includes the musician’s reaction to Rama,” says Jayant. Thyagaraja’s comments, she adds, are often made in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
The Bharatnatyam performance will be in two parts — from Rama’s birth to Sita Kalyanam and from Bharata’s search for Rama to the final coronation of Sri Rama in Ayodhya. The ekaharya is based on the book Thyagaraja Kriti Ramayanam by Sri D Seshadri. “I have also used some of Valmiki’s shlokas to enhance the performance,” reveals Jayant. Although she first performed this production in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Jayant has been changing the choreography over the years.
“Much of my choreography is influenced by Rama,” continues Jayant. “But I don’t limit myself to just telling his story. I often question Rama’s acts. For instance, during one performance I questioned Rama about how he could have banished Sita.”
On November 16, she will dance along with her troupe, many of whom are her students at the Shankarananda Kalakshetra institute in Hyderabad. “This performance has been titled Nrityopahar, which literally means the garden of choreography. It will include seven dances beginning with the Suryanamaskar — an ode to the sun god, Surya,” says Jayant.
The Suryanamaskar will be followed by Dashavataram, which will showcase intricate footwork and expressive dances set to Sanskrit poetry and musical notations, to bring to life the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
The performers will also pay their respects to nature by dancing to well known Telugu poet Devullapalli Krishnasastry’s poetry. “This will be an ode to spring or the vasanta ritu,” explains Jayant. “If time permits, I will also do a solo performance,” she signs off.