Mohiniyattam, the enchanting sensuous classical dance form is now well known even outside Kerala its state of origin as exponents experiment with tradition and incorporate even western music for background scores.
A festival of Mohiniyattam underway in New Delhi showcasing four different schools of the dance form - Kalamandalam, Kalyani Kutti Amma, Dr Kanak Rele, and Bharati Shivaji - focuses on the journey of the dance and its transformation, especially in styles evolved by dancers who settled down outside Kerala and India.
"This is the first ever Mohiniyattam Collective Festival we are holding in the country and it is in tribute to Kamaladevi Chattopadhayay, whose efforts supported the resurrection of the dance," says Bharati Shivaji founder of Centre for Mohiniyattam, which is organising the event.
The three-day event, which will culminate on August 18 is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sanget Natak Akademiand the Indian Centre for Cultural Relations.
Mohiniyattam, a typical female dance tradition, which was on the verge of extinction, was revived by the founder of Kerala Kalamandalam Vallathol Narayana Menon in the beginning of the 20th century.
Shvaji undertook research in Mohiniyattam at the persuasion the late Kamaladevi Chattopadhayay under a Sangeet NAtak Akademii fellowship scheme and now she has become synonymous with the dance.
At the festival, Vijayalakshmi, Shivaji's daughter would perform to the background score by global composer Mac Quayle.
Previoulsy, Vijayalakshi had choreographed and performed Mohiniyattam to Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at Russia's Bolshoi theatre and the same "has had over 40 shows till date," says Bharati.
"Mohiniyattam has come a long way. I was earlier comfined to the border of Kerala and not known elsewhere particularly in North India. But now people are very familiar with it and appreciate and admire it. It has evolved much more than any dance form." says Shivaji Upon the request of Rabindranath Tagore, VAllathol sent Kalyaniamma to teach the dance at Shantiniketan.
"She settled there and evolved her own style. Plus we have others like Kanak Rele in Mumbai, Shanta Rao etc who took Mohinyattam to other parts of the country," says Shivaji.
Russian danseuse Olga Stolyarova (an ICCR schoralarship student) and Manjula Murthy would also represent Bharati's school.
Meanwhile, Mandakini Trivedi represents Kanak Rele's style, Athira Shankar of of Kalyanikutty Amma and Pallavi Krishnan that of Kerala Kalamandalam style.
"All the schools have different approaches to the style of Mohiniyattan but they are unified in base and structure of the dance. A lot of innovations has been done but within the parameters," says Bharati.
The festival is also featuring a photo exhibition and rare documents featuring all the Gurus and other exponents of the dance form from the time it was revived.
The photos have been sourced from Sangeet NAtak Akademi archives and the famous collection of Mohan Khokara and curated by his son Ashish Khokar.
The festival will feature Panchavadyam, the unique percussion ensemble of Kerala, talks by eminent historian M G S Narayanan and other gurus.