Dancer’s Pledge - Boston Dancers Deliver
(This article is sponsored by Masala Art)
Madurai R. Muraliadharan’s Sivagamiyin Shabadam - translated as Dancer’s Pledge, presented under the auspices of Vision AID was a spectacular production that brought to life the timeless classic created by Amarar Kalki. Featuring over 60 performers the event was almost broadway like where Boston dancers put their finest foot forward while raising funds for Vision AID.
The event was held on July 27 2014 at the Roger Center for the Performing Arts in Merrimack College, North Andover, MA. For a few hours, the audience was transported to sixth century South India where the Pallavas and the Chalukyas were the most powerful kingdoms perhaps in the world itself. This tale is a historical fiction written by Amarar Kalki and it is a classic that is revered by Tamils world over.
Amarar Kalki makes “art” the true hero in this play. Sivagami, the extremely talented dancer who is the central character of the piece has a great fan club and even the villain claims that it is her art that has pulled her to him. Aaynar, the father of Sivagami is a multi-faceted artist whose talents range from sculpture to painting to dance. His artistic abilities are so powerful that “Thirunavvukku Arsar or Appar”, the greatest Shaivaite Saint of his time bows at the feet of Aayanar. The Chalukya king Pulakesi kidnaps the artists from the Pallava kingdom and that causes a war between the two kingdoms.
VisionAID an organization that supports the visually challenged in India by providing a wide range of services, hosts dance productions where the local dancers put monies to support the cost of the production thus allowing ticket proceeds to be used for helping the visually challenged. It was a concept that I and the VisionAID team partnered on for the production of the Ramayana. Since then the concept really blossomed whereby VisionAID fundraisers have become a platform for classical dancers, young and wise to gather to create magic.
In addition to Amarar Kalki, this year’s magic was due entirely to the genius of Madurai R. Muralidharan who transformed that complex tale into an amazing broadway production. His wonderful compositions made the music magical. His graphic animations for the backdrop and creating props that included an actual elephant were brilliant. He was ably assisted by many in dads and moms in the creation of the props. He and his brilliant dancer daughter Kavya not only performed their roles to perfection, (18 year old Kavya played the central role) but also trained the local dancers and performers to present a near perfect creation. The group dances featured nearly 40 dancers all presented in perfect coordination.
As people watched the show, the comment that came was everyone was amazing. It is rare one hears that in a piece. Hard work by the local talented dancers and performers, amazingly designed costume and strong direction from Muralidharan made this happen. Muralidharan sir cast men, who had never been on stage before and trained them to deliver. A grandpa who came see the rehearsals was cast as “Appar” and he was perfect for the role. Men , mosty dads, brothers and friends of dancers were trained to be warriors
Local dance teachers Suja Meyyappan, Jeyanthi Ghatraju, Sheetal Dwarka, Sripriya Natarajan, Kalaimangai Anbalagan, Pallavi Nagesha, Hema Iyengar and senior dancers Deepa Rajamani, Harini Raghavan were great not just in their roles but also helping train the other local dancers who were all fabulous. Saravanan Meyyappan’s handling of the technical issues was key to ensuring the grandeur of the production. Shobha Shastry’s props from Alankar Decors gave the right majestic touch.
For me it was a true honor to be cast as Aayanar, the artist who was passionate about the art. This production will go down as one of the finest I have had the honor to be the part of (and perhaps the only time I will wear a beard). To you Guru Muralidaran our humble pranams.
The success of the production is due also in a very big way to the amazing VisionAID team. Ram and Revathy Ramakrishna, Anu Chitrapu, Ali Rizvi and the entire team works hard each year to make a professional program where the artists can focus on the art while the Vision AID team takes care of everything else. Their passion for the cause of VisionAID is unparalleled and their kindness and support to the artist is also unparalleled. When all positive energies align, we can only hope that just like Sivagami, all of us are visually aided to transcend beyond that which the eyes can see into a realm of infinite possibilities at the feet of the great Lord Nataraja.
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