The Allarippu is the introductory part of the entire performance. Generally, the performer starts with a Namaskara, with her palms joined together and held above her head, her feet joined and her body leaning forward. The Namaskara is usually addressed as a greeting to god. The dancer moves her neck sideways along with the beginning of the music, which is accompanied by the movement of her eyes in a triangular pattern. This is followed by swinging the hands and shoulders in the same pace of the movement of the neck. The dancer's face renders an expression of ecstasy; with a smile forming up on her lips. This portion of the performance of Dasi Attam is called Rechakas. Normally, only vocal idioms of dance syllables, or Sollukuttus, are used at this time. Next, the Namaskara is held in front of the face of the dancer, who sits in a semi-kneeled posture, offering salutation to the audience.
The most important position in Allarippu is when the dancer attains a posture with her knees folded and her feet raises at an angle of 120 degrees. Her arms are held at shoulder level, being parallel to the floor, with bent elbows and fingers protruding backwards. There are several variations of this posture, but the basic elements remain similar.
Jatiswaram forms the next part of the performance for Dasi Attam. This part is of particular importance as it comprises of pure dance moves in rhythmic pattern, in accordance with the beats of the drummer and the vocal relay of Swaras and Sollukuttus. It is very imperative for the success of Jatiswaram that the drummer and the dancer are in perfect harmony, with each other. The performer begins with her hands on her waist and her feet joined together. She then taps her feet in order to count time in order to prepare for the Jatiswaram. The dancer and drummer usually do not decide on the 'Jati' before the performance. Rather both the dancer and the drummer, perform in a spirited and competitive mode in order display a greater mastery of talents in their respective fields. The dancer has to make numerous calculations in order to perform precisely and match her movements with the drummer's beat. Moreover the dancer has to express the various Swaras with her movements, combing one move with the other, by means of her swift skills.
The Shabdam introduces authentic dance moves or Nritya. It starts off with a Tirmana and gradually moves on to depicting the Sahitya or the literature which is included in the lyrics of the song. This part can be considered as an introduction to what comprises the rest of the performance. This portion combines the Sahitya and the Tirmana in order to enhance the performance.
The Varnam begins when all of the elements of Dasi Attam have been introduced to the audience members. The performer's expertise in the Nritya or the dance form is at display during the delivery of Varnam, which can last up to the duration of one hour. At this stage, the lyrics and music also achieves excellence and enhances the dancer's Nritya. The Varnam starts with a Tirmana and is followed by stunning dance pieces. The songs in Varnam are steeped in romance and themes of love, which may be of religious or spiritual origin. There may also be erotic tales of love, where a maiden longs for her lover and confides in her friend or Sakhi. Other tales may connote the worries of a mother with the flirtatious nature of her young daughter.
This part indicates the climax of the performance, where the Nritya becomes outstanding with the inclusion of Adavus and Jatis. This phase is in utter contrast to the swiftness and exhilaration of the Varnam. Charnam comprises of poetic and lyrical Padams, which are usually depicted in slow pace as the lyrics of the songs are portrayed through hand gestures and facial expressions known as Abhinaya. The basic themes of the Padams are rooted in romantic love. The dancer is considered as a lovelorn woman longing for her lover or Nayaka. The inherent implication of the Padam is the desire of the soul to unite with the divine spirit. Each word of the lyric is expressed explicitly by the dancer in order to imply every aspect of the song. As the songs have deep spiritual meaning and most tales are centred on various Hindu gods, like Lord Krishna, the dancer has to signify the deity by means of her Abhinaya. Sometimes the dancers used to depict members of the audience, instead of gods, and because of the flirtatious nature of the dancers, the classical dance had earned disrepute. The dancers were termed as Nautch girls and were considered decadent and licentious. Padams were considered the most important part of the entire performance. The dancer's depiction of the characters and every word of the tale appeared very interesting.
The next phase was named Tillana, which was mainly a dance of pleasure and happiness. With her facial expression and movements of her feet, hands, fingers, necks and eyes, the dancer performs each Jati and Adavu with perfection.
Recitation of Shlokas
The recitation of Shlokas marks the finale of the performance of Dasi Attam which was generally gentle and sober. The narration of the Slokas is done in a melodic way, based on a certain raga. The performer expresses the meaning of the Slokas through her Abhinaya. Musical accompaniment is not provided in the stage.
The performance of Dasi Attam requires expert skill and understanding of the art, on behalf of the dancer, who portrays the entire performance through the various stages, with the aid of her dancing skills, Abhinaya and her ability to interact with the audience.
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