When two of South India’s most prominent artists took the stage Sunday at the Terrace Theater, it was not clear how two such powerful performers as Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna and bharatnatyam dancer Priyadarsini Govind would achieve a collaborative performance in which both art forms carried equal weight.
Succeed they did. These two bright stars let each other shine and, in so doing, combined their wattage.
Each is a powerhouse in his or her own right. She is meticulous, angular and highly musical. He is all heart with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude, and is insanely musical. She is the kind of dancer musicians love, and he has enough confidence to share equal billing with a dancer.
Both have incredible technique that makes everything seem easy and, perhaps most importantly, both see themselves as traditionalists who innovate by mining what exists — be it now or in their respective art form’s past.
Two major collaborative pieces formed the program’s core. The first was a varnam (Suma Sayaka composed by Maharaja Swati Tirual, choreographed by Govind), a form untraditionally placed well into the program rather than at the beginning. Through abhinaya (expressive dance), Govind conveyed the exquisite pain of love. The second (Ragatalasahityamalika composed for the program by Krishna and Vidvan Shhri, choreographed by Govind) was a complex and innovative work using multiple melodic forms and rhythmic cycles.
The elements that have pushed Krishna and Govind to the forefront of their respective crafts are clear. Her performance carries a wallop because of the extreme delicacy with which she conveys emotion. Krishna can alight on a high note like a feather and his ornamentation is never glib. His large and sensitive hands soar and dip and rise as he sings, paralleling the direction and quality of each phrase.
Together, they created a spectacular program.
Kidron is a freelance writer.