Tradition and Modernization: Mohiniyattam – Vinitha Nedungadi

A Journey of Transformation:

Mohiniyattam, a classical dance form deeply rooted in tradition, has witnessed significant transformations in recent years. These changes raise questions about the preservation of the art’s essence amidst continuous adaptations and their potential to drive profound aesthetic evolution. In this exploration, we will examine the perspectives on these transformations.

Embracing Change:

Within the world of Mohiniyattam, some changes have led the art form to new heights while maintaining a connection with its traditional roots. Artists with a daring attitude have been at the forefront of embracing substantial changes. These transformations began with pioneers like Kalyanikutty Amma and Satyabhama Teacher and continued with unique personalities such as Bharathi Shivaji, whose innovations have left a lasting impact.

One significant transformation involved infusing sophisticated musical elements and Kerala’s rhythms into Mohiniyattam. While debates surrounded this change, the key lies in recognizing and accepting transformations that align with the art form’s potential and capabilities.

A Personal Journey of Contribution:

The journey of Mohiniyattam artist Vinitha Nedungadi began during her school days under Guru Vishweshwaran’s tutelage in 1993-94. Her exploration of choreography and composition led to a profound realization that dance could be elevated by aligning movements with the poetry’s words, enhancing both taste and aesthetic beauty.

Over time, her approach shifted from elaborate storytelling to subtler details. The integration of emotions, rhythms, and literature became paramount, departing from the imitation of Bharatanatyam to create a unique Mohiniyattam experience. The careful blend of visual and auditory elements, interwoven with literary verses, enriched the art form’s expressive potential.

Vinitha’s exploration extended to the realm of music, incorporating Kerala talas and rhythms. She composed poems specifically for Mohiniyattam, emphasizing the integration of words and movements. Her quest for innovation also led to the fusion of various music projects into Mohiniyattam choreography, recognizing the importance of unifying the visual and auditory components.

Connoisseurs and Their Preferences:

Connoisseurs of Mohiniyattam hold diverse preferences, with some embracing change and others seeking the traditional. The interaction between artists and connoisseurs plays a pivotal role in shaping the art’s direction.

Certain transformations have been guided by connoisseurs’ desires, leading to the adaptation of traditional poems to reflect new perspectives. This willingness to incorporate feedback has led to the evolution of Mohiniyattam.

The Balance between Dance and Emotion:

Vinitha Nedungadi’s journey has highlighted the importance of balancing pure dance with emotional expression. In her view, the dancer’s body and the body of emotions should harmonize, resulting in a unified dance experience. This balance allows for infinite possibilities in dance and sentiment, providing a path to refine artistic expression.

Moreover, the connection between music and dance is crucial. The body becomes an instrument, producing both visual and auditory elements. This fusion enhances the artistic presentation and encourages further exploration.

The Emergence of “Srisabha”:

Vinitha Nedungadi has played a role in nurturing connoisseurs from diverse backgrounds and creating a platform called “Srisabha.” This informal ensemble fosters discussions and conversations about various aspects of art. It serves as a space for contemplation, practice, and insightful discussions, promoting the growth of artists and connoisseurs alike.

Mohiniyattam’s journey of transformation reflects the delicate balance between tradition and modernization. While change is inevitable, it should align with the art form’s potential and capabilities. Artists like Vinitha Nedungadi have demonstrated the importance of embracing innovation while preserving the essence of Mohiniyattam.

Connoisseurs, through their preferences and feedback, have played a vital role in guiding the evolution of this classical dance form. The fusion of pure dance with emotional expression, coupled with the integration of visual and auditory elements, paves the way for a richer artistic experience.

The emergence of platforms like “Srisabha” underscores the importance of nurturing artistic growth through discussions and practice. In the ever-evolving landscape of Mohiniyattam, the pursuit of excellence remains a driving force, ensuring that this timeless tradition continues to inspire generations to come.

The art column is based on an article written by Swetha Mangalath (myself) and originally published in the regional language in the Keleeravam Magazine for the International Kutiyattam & Kathakali Festival 2015.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *