Mohiniyattam Lasya

Jayaprabha Menon
At Nehru centre London
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A danseuse with exceptional artistry, a versatile choreographer and an affectionate Guru, Jayaprabha Menon has notched a reputation non-pareil in the firmament of Indian Classical dances. Her performances of Mohiniyattam have been eloquent demonstrations of terpsichorean talents groomed by venerated Gurus.

Jayaprabha’s graceful nritta is phenomenal as one can discern the union of the dance and the dancer as a single entity. Her metamorphosis into the vivid characters on the stage speaks for her histrionic adroitness. She has been fortunate to enjoy the guidance of Padmabhushan Kavalam Narayana Panicker, an acclaimed authority of Sopana Sangeetham.

Apart from the Kalashree award of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, national accolades like Nritya Sree and Devadasi Puraskaram have chased her over the past three decades of her career. The International Academy of Mohiniyattam, New Delhi of which she is the founder-director has been moulding young talents strictly in the Sopana style.

Mohiniyattam is the lyrical dance of Kerala origin that is extremely rich in lasya (graceful). The dance form that can claim an antiquity of more than 400 years was totally extinct until Maharaja Swatithirunal of Travancore resuscitated it.

Admittedly, there was a case of identity crisis when it was revived in Kalamandalam during 1930s since the repertoire owned much to that of Bharatanatyam. This was addressed by Kavalam Narayana Panicker who was successful in introducing the Sopana Sangeetham and talas (rhythms) esoteric to Kerala, thereby enriching the regional flavor of the dance form.

Sopana Sangeetham embraces unique ragas and talas and is further the quintessence of ‘Thouryathrikam’, a combination of Geetha (music), Vadya (percussion) and Nritta (dance). Apart from the ‘Akaara’ style of rendition, the mnemonics of Edakka, the musico-percussion instrument, and the myriad talas contribute in no small measure in enhancing the wavy style of movements of the dancer and also in delineating the bhava (emotion) thereby helping the performer in abhinaya (acting). It is worth mentioning that a performance in the Sopana style brings out the very ambience of Kerala culture thereby providing regional identity to the dance form.