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Kaleidoscope -Dance Recital At Bridgewater State College

Ranjani Saigal
04/02/2003

When my students and I were invited to participate in a performance at the Bridgewater State College, I just treated it as yet another performance. I was a little skeptical when I heard that the other part of the performance was the culmination of a ten-week training in Bharatanatyam. Thoughts like “Bharatanatyam in ten weeks by students unfamiliar with India? Is that possible?” were racing through my head. But the spectacular performance that I witnessed put all my doubts to rest. This show will certainly go down as one of the most cherished experiences of my life.

Appropriately titled Kaleidoscope, it blended together the traditional Bharatanatyam numbers with folk dances and other dance numbers set to contemporary music. The show began with the familiar Vigna Vinayaka Kavituam “Hari Thiru Marugane”. There were over 20 participants on stage. They were dancing to live music and the synchronization was amazing. Not one hand was out of place, not one step out of beat. Of the twenty, only one was partially of Indian origin. This was Nabiha Abid who is a half Indian , half Pakistani Muslim. If the audience was impressed thus far the next presentation knocked them of the chair. It was “Nanda Gopalanai”, a Varnam composed by Periasami Thooran in Bhairavi. It was my first opportunity to see a Varnam performed by 25 students. The Jathis used were not simple and yet the synchronization was amazing with not one beat skipped. The hand gestures and expressions were extremely well done.

The choreographer had incorporated interesting line formations and the sole male dancer Alex Valentine, who is of African American origin, played the role of Krishna. The second half featured dances choreographed to the music of Dr. Krishna Raghavendra, a composer from New England whose CDs Rare Pulse and Shiva Ganga are very familiar to the audience. Shiva Ganga was choreographed in a typical Bharatanatyam fashion by Kausalya Srinivasan and Rare Pulse was a fusion choreographed by Dr. Nancy Moses. Other special presentations included Kavadi and Fisherman’s dance by students of Eastern Rhythms dance school. Amrita Saigal performed Tarangam. But the piece that moved the audience the most was the dance to Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram by 5-10 year old blind children in Bharatanatyam style from the VIP after school program.

Smt. Geeta Murali from Norwood, MA provided exceptional vocal support. Shri Murali Balachandran from New York , NY gave multifaceted percussion support including Mridangam, Kanjira and sometimes even saying the Sollutkatus. Dr. Krishna Raghvendra played the Veena.

So how did such a wonderful thing happen? “It is the magic of Kausalya Srinivasan, the Bharatanatyam exponent who is our Fulbright Scholar in residence. She has provided amazing training to our students. When she came on board I could never have imagined that we would have such a presentation in such a short time” says Dr. Nancy Moses, chair of the department of dance at Bridgewater State College. I had the opportunity to chat with the students of Kausalya and others involved in the production. It was an eye opening experience for me to hear about Bharatanatyam training from these students. We will carry that interview in the next issue of Lokvani.

The success of this show is owed a lot to the untiring efforts of Dr. Krishna Raghavendra and his wife, Dr. Uma Shama, a faculty at Bridgewater state, who works hard to increase curriculum diversity at the school. Dr. Krishna Raghavendra is an international performing artist, composer, and producer of both traditional and contemporary Indian music. He is a virtuoso on the Veena, a traditional plucked stringed instrument from South India. Dr. Raghavendra has developed novel playing techniques, which involve a combination of soft nuances, swift fingering and imaginative uses of melodic and drone stings to produce harmonizing and vamping sounds that mimic different instruments and human voice. He is the founder of the Ragha School of Music, an institution primarily devoted to promoting and integrating Indian music with western and other forms of music. He has released several original recordings and leads the “Raga and Rhythm Ensemble” (RARE).

The students will be presenting a special item at the Hindu Heritage Day on May 10th at the Marlborough Middle School.



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