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December is over, but its season is hardly done with. As curtains fall on music performances at most sabhas, it is time for dance to take the spotlight. From thematic concerts by veterans to experimental pieces from artistes climbing up the ranks, here’s a checklist of performances to catch this week.

Malavika Sarukkai1

To Sarukkai, dance isn’t just an art form. “What we dance is who we are,” says the Bharatnatyam exponent, who is renowned for imbuing the art form with layers of meaning. Her soulful performances, which make her a big draw at sabhas, are the result of her internalisation of the art and interpretation of tradition, she says. In her only concert in the city this season, look forward to her debut of the Meera Bhajans. “Apart from that, I will also be revisiting one of my earlier varnams,” reveals the dancer, who is trained in both the Thanjavur and Vazhuvoor styles of dance.
January 4, Music Academy, at 6 pm. Details: 28112231

Arushi Mudgal

At 29, she is among the youngest dancers to perform during Margazhi. The daughter of celebrated Hindustani vocalist Madhav Mudgal, Arushi studied the nuances of dance from Odissi expert Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, among others. “I will be performing two of his pieces, apart from two of my own compositions,” says the Delhi-based danseuse, who doesn’t want to reveal much about her solo performance. Her contemporary approach to dance and zestful performance make her a talent to watch out for. January 8, Music Academy,
at 7.45 pm. Details: 28112231

Gopika Varma

Catch a whiff of Kerala in the Mohiniyattam performance by Varma. Though not as fast-paced as Bharatnatyam, and without its jathi (rhythmic footwork), it is an evocative art form performed by a choice few at Margazhi—the most prominent being Varma. The dancer, who is married to Poorattathi Thirunal Marthanda Varma of the Travancore royal family, is known for her introspective, evocative expressions.
January 7, at 7.30 pm, at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Karthik Fine Arts. Details: 24640811

Padma Subrahmanyam

For several years now, the New Year begins with a concert by Subrahmanyam at Karthik Fine Arts. This time, she, along with other artistes from her dance school Nrithyodaya, will perform her magnum opus, Natyasasthram Viswa Margam. According to Subrahmanyam, it brings out the quintessence of her five-decade research on Natya Sasthra (treatise on performing arts). “All the karanas (key transitional poses) and angharas (a combination of these poses) will be presented,” says the dancer. Don’t miss the Japanese and Russian music that will set the stage for her solo of Gajendra Motcham and Jatayu Motcham.
Today, Narada Gana Sabha, at 7 pm. Details: 24993201

Sonal Mansingh

After a three-year hiatus, veteran Mansingh returns to Margazhi. “I’ve been coming to Chennai to perform since 1962, when it was Madras,” smiles the exponent of Odissi and Bharatnatyam, who was awarded the title of Natya Kala Sikhamani by the Indian Fine Arts Society. “But it has been a challenge to come every year and present something fresh. So it was a deliberate decision to not take up performances in the last three years,” adds the Padma Vibhushan recipient. The dancer—known for her contemporary style—has taken up different themes for her six performances in the city, including Devi, Krishna and Geetha Govindham and Shiva. At the Indian Fine Arts Society, the artiste will present a programme on Shiva.
Today, at 7.30 pm. Details: 28154360

Srekala Bharath

The Ragam Tanam Pallavi—considered a true test for a Carnatic singer—is not traditionally part of the Bharatnatyam margam. But popular danseuse Bharath, who trained under the legendary KJ Sarasa, says she plans on performing it at one of her dance performances. Known for her strict adherence to tradition, Bharath says another innovative piece planned for this season is a dance adaptation of a dialogue between Tamil saint (poet) Avvaiyar and Lord Muruga, ‘Kodiyadhu, Iniyadhu, Periyadhu, Ariyadhu’.
January 4, Indian Fine Arts Society (Ethiraj Kalyana Nilayam), at 6 pm. Details: 28154360. January 8, at Thyaga Brahma
Gana Sabha, at 6.30 pm. Details: 28152166

Alarmel Valli

She got on to the hallowed stage of The Music Academy when she was just 15. This year, the 59-year-old will receive the Academy’s prestigious Natya Kala Acharya Award. Have no doubt that her concert that follows will be extra special. “I will be presenting pieces that mark significant moments of growth and change in my career, my milestones,” says the dancer, one of the A-listers in the Pandanallur tradition. The varnam she will be presenting, for example, is the first one that she adapted from Telugu, while another piece, the Nritya Lahiri, is in a thillana format, specially crafted around a phrase in Vasantha raaga that she was fond of. Valli, a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, is known for her well-researched performances and grace.
January 8, Music Academy, at 6 pm. Details: 28112231

Text: Sharadha Narayanan

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