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Sri Krishna Parijatam - A Lovely Presentation

Gowri Anandarajah

On Saturday, October 29, 2011 an audience from Rhode Island and Massachusetts were treated to an extraordinary night of Carnatic Music & Kuchipudi dance performances designed to support efforts to serve needy communities in Rhode Island. The evening was organized by the Vivek A. Patel Memorial Foundation and by Prafulla Velury, founder and teacher at Prafulla’s Academy of Dance and Music (PADAM) in Cranston, RI. All proceeds will be used to feed needy families at Thanksgiving and to donate Christmas gifts to children living in poverty. The evening’s performances included several items by students of PADAM, followed by a very entertaining Kuchipudi dance drama performed by professional level dancers and teachers.

The show started with energetic and enthusiastic performances by Prafulla’s students, who ranged in age from 5 years to 13 years.  The first item was “Vinayaka”, a song in praise of Lord Sri Ganesha by Siddharth Sridhar whose clear rendition of the song was a pleasure to the ears. This was followed by “Sri Vakratunda Mahakaya”, a dance in praise of Lord Ganesha where the dancers performed while singing the song at the same time. This was followed by Saraswati Prarthana (prayer) and Guru Vandana (prayer to the teacher). The next item was a delightful performance of “Pooja Nrityam” (offering flowers to God and welcoming the audience), referred to as the “baby dance” by Prafulla, performed by some of the youngest dancers. The following dance, “Brahmanjali”, a prayer to Lord Natarajah (Lord of the dance), was expertly performed by three older dancers Leela Mennillo, Jaya Gottlieb and Neha Dharmapuram. The final dance item was “Hari Om”, a prayer to Lord Vishnu and Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba,   choreographed in a complex stick dance (garba or kolatam) style.

Students dancing tonight were: Ananya Bhoominathan, Tanvi Kavali, Pallavi Kamsani, Raasya Mandala, Sraavya Lingam, Jayalakshmi Gottlieb, Leela Mennillo, Meera Mennillo, Deevena Annavarjula, Ishita Rai, Medha Guduru, Tarika Srinivasa, Neha Dharmapuram, Pooja Thyvalappil and Priya Krishni Gottlieb.

The highlight of the evening and the concluding presentation was a dazzling Kuchipudi dance drama - “Sri Krishna Parijatam” - choreographed by the renowned Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam and orchestrated by Prafulla Velury. This captivating dance drama tells the classical story of Lord Krishna’s ability to conquer the ego of his proud and emotional but devoted second consort, Queen Satyabhama. He does this through a grand leela, which is instigated by the mischievous Sage Narada. Krishna’s humble devotee and first consort, Queen Rukmini, acts as a stark contrast to the egoistic Satyabhama and becomes a key character in Lord Krishna’s divine play. Through their mischievous actions, Sri Krishna and Sage Narada are able to teach Satyabhama a lesson in humility and successfully continue their universal role of doing good in the world (loka kalyana).

Jeyanthi Ghatraju, of the Natyanjali School of Dance in Westford, MA played the role of Sri Krishna. Despite being a Bratanatyam teacher, she spent weeks learning the Kuchipudi style and did justice to the role of Sri Krishna. Queen Rukmini’s inner beauty and humble devotion was portrayed through the graceful movements and complex footwork of Sushma Yechuri, teacher at Kalamandapam School of Kuchipudi Arts in Seattle, WA.  Her years of experience were evident in her effortless and flowing movements, which were highlighted during a classic Kuchipudi style dance on a brace plate that she did with Jeyanthi, as Sri Krishna. The role of Sage Narada, was played by 13-year old Krishna Sampada Velury, a student and daughter of Prafulla’s. Sampada did a great job of capturing Narada’s “trouble-maker” nature through her dance and story-telling motions. Even though much younger and lacking in experience when compared to the rest of the stage, Sampada held her own when playing her part. Finally, Prafulla Velury, as Queen Satyabhma, held the audience captivated every time she took the stage.  Her outstanding, rigorous dance performance was highlighted by her extraordinary facial expressions. Through her dance the audience was taken on the roller coaster ride of Queen Satyabhama’s emotions. We witnessed Satyabhama’s pride in her beauty and gleeful expectation of the arrival of Sri Krishna, followed by her outrage, anger and jealousy at the thought that she had been “wronged”. Finally we experienced her humble understanding of the real identity of her husband, Krishna, as the Lord of the Universe, who can only be won though pure love and sincere prayers.

This evening of Kuchipudi dance performances, from the youngest pre-K students to the accomplished dancers who graced the stage, was an incredible experience for everyone present. The most moving aspect of tonight’s events is that all participants were motivated by the sincere desire to use their art for selfless service to the community. We thank The Vivek Patel Memorial Foundation and the dance teachers for organizing this event and acting as role models for our youth and our community.

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