Renowned dancer, Padmashri awardee Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant, had conceived and created Natyarambha – the Bharatanatyam practice app, in 2017 to help dancers practice the basics of Bharatanatyam, an app that has been praised by dance gurus and digital leaders alike , that is now followed across the world. Natyarambha is also a digital platform that was active, from the very first day of the lockdown in March 2020, and throughout the pandemic, with innumerable artistic digital initiatives, with the aim of motivationg and inspiring young artistes across the world, by engaging the artistic community – both young and senior – in interesting online programs.
In July 2021, with the pandemic still raging, Ananda returned to her artistic ouvre, to see, what was it, that she could share with classical dancers, across the world.
She says, ‘The classical dance traditions of India, have always drawn their insight and inspiration from the very rich and varied musical heritage that has been bequeathed to us. These musical gems span generations and genres, and continue to inform and enrich the aural and visual firmament of dance. The brilliant imagery, music and poetry of the many Vaggeyakaras, have enthused and inspired me to translate their exquisite music into the visual realm of Bharatanatyam. I have, over the years, conceived and presented, solo features and ensemble productions which have been mounted only, on the compositions of any one vaggeyakara.’
The lyrical beauty and the musical genius of Annamacharya , have beckoned many artists.
In the sylvan and holy seven hills of Tirumala, Annamacharya, lived a deeply devoted life, translating his immense love for Lord Venkateswara, into innumerable gems of poetry and music. Spanning the narrative and the evocative, the temporal and the philosophical, the social and the moral; Annamacharya Sankeerthanas, with the felicity of his poetry and the genius of his musicality, are at once, incredibly simple, yet immensely powerful.
Annamacharya, was born in 1408, and, is said to have composed as many as 32,000 sankeerthanas in praise of his beloved, Lord Venkateswara; compositions, said to have been written on Talapatra or palm leaves, and later engraved on to Tamrapatra or copper plates. Of these; around 12,000, un-notated sankeerthanas, etched on copper plates, were discovered at Tirumala in 1922, which are now available as Taallapaka Pada Sahityamu, a 29-volume set of Shringara and Adhyatmika Sankeerthanas published by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam ( TTD) . Around 1500 of these, Sankeerthanas, have been set to music by maestro composers such as : Sri Nedunuri Krishna Murthy, Dr. Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna, Srirangam Gopalarathnam, Sri Garimella Balakrishna Prasad , and others.
In 2010, Satthiraju Venu Madhav, a bright and rising star on the firmament of Carnatic Music, composed 108 Annamacharya Sankeerthanas, in 108 ragams. Released as a book and CD named Annamayya Padamandakini, that was produced by Sujanaranjani; Venumadhav’s musical compositions, that laid great emphasis on the Bhava of the poetry; were soon performed by musicians and adapted for dance by senior dancers and Gurus.
Unfortunately, Sathiraju Venumadhav, attained the feet of Sri Venkateswara in April 2019, leaving behind a young family, and, for all of us a treasure of his beautiful compositions – a treasure that we at Natyarambha thought must be a part of every dancer’s repertoire – a precious content value addition.
And thus was born Tamrapatra – a yearlong online series of learning rare Annamacharya Sankeerthanas, composed by Sathiraju Venumadhav, with Abhinaya and choreography envisioned and taught by India’s leading classical dancers across dance styles : Dr Anita Ratnam, Dr Anupama Kylash, Bragha Bessel, Deepika Reddy, Geeta Chandran, Gopika Varma, Dr Methil Devika, Rama Vaidyanathan, Sharmila Biswas, Satyanarayana Raju, Vaibhav Arekar and I, Ananda Shankar Jayant; across the dance styles of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Neo Bharatam; created and taught our unique Abhinaya and choreography, exclusively to registered participants for Tamrapatra.
Renowned dance practitioner and scholar, Dr Anupama Kylash, collaborator of the Tamrapatra project, brought indepth analysis of the literature of the songs, the transliteration and transcreation embellished with myriad cross references, from the vast literary wealth of India, that was a precious and invaluable knowledge sharing, that embellished the twelve intensive and immersive learning sessions.
Every month, from July 2021 to June 2022, on every second Saturday and Sunday, dancers, gurus, and scholars, registered on the Natyarambha online platform, through Zoom sessions, to immerse themselves in all things Annamacharya, even as they learnt the many nuances, that each dance Guru brought to the selected Sankeerthana. With the generous sharing of lyric, material, meaning, and context of the invaluable content, dancers poured in from across the world and time zones; to learn from the masters, and take away treasured inputs and ideas, that they could then bring to their own performances or teaching later.
Participants at Tamrapatra, experienced a unique opportunity to learn from some of the dance legends of India. Over one year, more than 1000 paid registered participants, had twelve rare gems of Annamcharya Sankeerthans added to their dance repertoire.
Six of these 12 choreographies that were created, birthed for the Tamrapatra online series, now comes live at NCPA. Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant, Dr Anupama Kylash, Gopika Varma, Sharmila Biswas, Satyanarayana Raju, and Vaibhav Arekar , bring their own unique creations, that bring alive six exquisite Annamcharya Sankeerthanas, that trace the Shringara, and philosophical outpourings of Saint Annamacharya
Come let us together, enjoy these exquisite gems of Sahitya, Sangeeta and Natya, that brings alive – all things Annamcharya!
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