True art should bring out best in everyone: Danseuse Vasanthalakshmi

The Narasimhacharis

Chennai: The Kalasamarpana Foundation was started by renowned dancing couple Vasanthalakshmi and late Narasimhachari in 1969 with the aim of promoting and propagating the fine arts.

Students are taught Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi styles of dancing, the basics of Carnatic music and the nuances of rhythm in the foundation.

The Narasimhacharis believe that true art should bring out the best in everyone and, hence, all lessons are taught in an atmosphere of love and respect, emphasising not only technical virtuosity but integrity and sound values as well.

Talking about the dance dramas the Narasimhacharis created, Vasanthalakshmi said, “We created about 34 original dance dramas and thematic presentations covering a wide range of themes from mythology, such as Kamba Ramayanam; Sivaleela and Saranam Aiyappa; historical stories such as Kalingatthupparani, Manimegalai, Yashodhara and Vasavadatta which focus on Buddhist themes, biographies of Annamacharya, Rukmini Devi and Tulsi Das, Purandaradasa; themes of social and moral relevance such Bharathi Kanda Bharatham and Subhashitham; and gems from literature like Meghasandesha, Ritu Samhara, Ainthinai – A Landscape of Emotions and so on.”

Even at the age of 63, her thirst for learning has not been quenched. She is now learning the art of nattuvangam. According to her, nattuvangam is the ‘sutra’ or thread that holds all the elements of a performance of natya together and ensures that it blossoms into a beautiful garland.

The nattuvanar, most often the knowledgeable teacher and choreographer, strives to bring out the best from his fellow musicians as well as the dancer. The art of nattuvangam is not just wielding the cymbals but is, in fact, the life force behind a successful presentation of natya, she said.

With a bright smile while talking about her husband and guru, she says, “My husband Narasimhachari was a choreographer, performer and guru par excellence. I consider it my good fortune that I am his disciple and wife as he made me his partner both on and off stage. He was a complete artiste because of his expertise in natyam, natakam, sangeetham and mridangam. His consummate knowledge of all these fields richly informed his exquisite choreography. Each of his productions is a masterpiece in itself and he continues to inspire us through all of our works.”

She added, “We are blessed that Lavanya and Lasya, our daughters, have imbibed the love for the art and are striving to continue this rich legacy through Rasoham, a registered trust that promotes excellence in the arts. Through Rasoham, they have been conducting the Unity Concert Series that unites artistes from various styles by offering them a common performance platform as well the opportunity to benefit from our tutelage. Swarnaanjali is the sixth such Unity Concert.”

Swarnaanjali is a celebration of the 50 golden years of the Kalasamarpana Foundation. The evening opens with an immersive photo gallery walk that will showcase rare pictures of the couple and their institution. The 90-minute dance offering features five excerpts culled from our 34 dance-dramas and thematic presentations. It features over a 100 artistes, with mellifluous music, complex choreography, special effects and spectacular visuals.

Vasanthalakshmi said this is a milestone occasion for the Kalasamarpana Foundation and “I thank the Almighty for having given us the strength to adhere to our core values of honesty and integrity in our pursuit of artistic excellence.”

When asked about the audience base for classical art forms, she says, “I find the youngsters of today completely invested in their learning and willing to go that extra mile to acquire knowledge. The audiences enjoy lecture demonstrations and are willing participants in interactive events in which they can take their understanding of natya forward. It is thrilling and inspiring for artistes to have an informed audience because it challenges them to give of their best.”

She also said, “Thankfully, this generation continues to have a lot of respect for the classical arts. It is beautiful to see youngsters accompanying their parents and grandparents to kutcheris. True knowledge and talent will always have an eager audience. I hope and pray that natyam and sangeetham continue to flourish and inspire our youth more and more.”

Swarnaanjali, a free programme, will be celebrated 4 August at Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai, from 5 pm onward.

M Anandavalli