Vijaylakshmi’s most recent and outstanding choreographic work has been Swan Lake, based on the celebrated composition of the great Russian composer, Tchaikovsky. This choreography has not only added a unique dimension to the repertoire of Mohiniyattam, but has been one of the first attempts of its kind in the genre of classical Indian dance as well.

The attempt was to explore the idiom of Mohiniyattam, the South-Indian classical dance form of Kerala, through a completely different genre of music, namely Western Classical music. It was further inspiring to work on this concept, owing to the natural affinity that Western ballet and Mohiniyattam share, in terms of content, technique, and spirit. Interestingly, the swan has played a significant role in Indian art traditions as well.

What is amazing, is the striking similarities in terms of technique and the evocative white costumes accentuating the feminine spirit that both forms share. The music, which is rich and powerful, when closely observed, reveals an extremely dramatic, bhava-oriented and evocative quality about it, reminiscent of the dramatic element found in the Kerala dance traditions. The languid movements of the Western classical dancer could well be likened to the soft and graceful movements of Mohiniattam. Even in terms of content the story lends itself very well to the Indian ethos - the heroine or the nayika and her lover, their meeting, followed by their separation caused by an evil spell, eventually their union and the role of the nayika's sakhis, or friends and several other parallels.

Among all the classical Indian forms, Mohiniyattam is perhaps most suited for such a creative attempt. The content, sequence, tonality and other aspects of the music give it an unusual richness, complexity and lyricism making it a very enriching experience. Tchaikovsky achieves an unwavering musical structure that is designed to vividly etch the story outline in virtually every detail. Swan Lake is a perfect example of skillfully fused poetic sentiments of romantic ballet with the dramatics and skill of classical ballet which raised the essence of the work to its highest level.

Bharati Shivaji and Vijayalakshmi also had the rare honour of being invited to present Swan Lake along with their troupe at the prestigious Bolshoi Theatre, in Moscow and the Conservatory Theatre in St.Petersburgh, during the Festival, ‘Days of Indian Culture’ in Russia, organized by the Department of Culture, Government Of India, in 2005.


Rarely has one had the feeling of music and dance being perfectly matched as in the recent endeavour of Swan Lake in Mohini Attam based on Tchaikovsky's original music by The Centre for Mohini Attam, under the leadership of dancer Bharati Shivaji and her disciple/daughter Vijayalakshmi....This task of retaining the best of the music without giving a feel of disjointed bits put together could only have been achieved by one who had absorbed every mood in the music by listening to it constantly. Here it was Vijayalakshmi whose obsessive desire to do Swan Lake in Mohini Attam after having listened to the music in Russia and seen ballet performances was a factor which came to the aid of the production and in a sense became its main motivating force. The fact that many Westerners who are familiar with the work, while watching forgot the feeling of this being a cross-cultural work, says a lot for how dance and music interacted.

Leela Venkataraman, Dance Critic, www.sruti.com

“Mohini Maidens charmed swans…A dance drama that showed a sheer panache to find a close similarity between the Western ballet and Mohiniyattam…In spite of the very obvious influences of the balletic leaps, pirouettes and arabesques, the movement on toes, the diagonal groupings and the other usages of space, the idea jelled admirably…in the hero (superbly essayed by Santosh Nair) using powerful Charis (gaits), Utplabans (jumps) and Bhramaris (rotations) from the genre of Mayurbhanj Chhau and the swan odetta (enacted beautifully by Vijayalakshmi) using the swaying motions of Mohiniyattam, in picturesque unison with her companions.”

The Pioneer

The audience was amazed when instead of Swan-girls in usual ballet skirts, barefooted beauties in Indian sarees with jasmine flowers in black hair floated on the stage. Their movements were magnificent. They told a love story, taken with delight by the spectators. As for the contents on the performance, the ardour on the stage was stronger, the colours were brighter and the artistes more passionate. The sophisticated audience in Moscow received it with ovation. It turns out to be so pleasant to destroy the steadiest stereotypes.



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