About Us Contact Us Help




Dance Ballet “Samprati – Beyond Time”
Fund-raiser For Vision-Aid Holds Boston Audiences Spell-bound!!

Shuchita Rao

Sunshine on the sprawling grounds of Rogers Center for the Arts (Merrimack College) greeted a large contingent of Indian Americans in colorful ethnic attire on the warm afternoon on Saturday, July 18. A packed auditorium waited expectantly for the dance ballet “Samprati – Beyond Time!” featuring eleven New England area Bharatanatyam dance teachers and thirty young students to begin. Organized and presented by Vison-Aid, a non-profit organization serving the visually disadvantaged, the dance ballet choreographed by the renowned Bangalore based Bharatanatyam danseuse-cum-teacher Smt. Padmini Ravi began soon after a brief speech about the organization’s mission by the founder Sri Ramkrishna Raju. The address was followed by an informative and touching documentary film that show-cased several successful initiatives. 

Doing away with the age-old tradition of emceeing by standing behind a podium, Smitha Radhakrishnan, (Associate professor of Sociology at Wellesley College) wearing a portable microphone played the role of a storyteller. She walked between the aisles of the auditorium and interacted with the members of the audience by holding an interactive dialog with them and with a mysterious voice who could only be heard but not seen in the auditorium. Striking an instant rapport with the audience, Smitha explained the concept behind the dance ballet Samprati effectively using mime, movement and theatrical expressions. 

The concept of the Holy Trinity (Bramha, Vishnu and Maheshwara and their respective female counterparts Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathy) was explored in the first half of the ballet. The second half explored the work “Naukacharitra” of the great music composer Thyagaraja’s conceptualization of the manner humans struggle through the challenges of life. Lord Krishna steered the gopis(humans) across the river Yamuna (the journey of life) in this delightful story. Marveling at the theme , the well-known Boston based dancer-cum-teacher Ranjani Saigal wrote in the program brochure “As Thyagaraja tries to open the mind’s eye through the dramatic Nauka Charitram, the production Samprati works to bring vision to those visually challenged through Vision-Aid.”   

The creative use of stage lights and props on stage, colorful Bharatanatyam costumes ranging from soft pastels to bold mustards and reds, the seamless shift from folk to classical movements, beautiful group formations and powerful abhinaya by area teachers showed off Boston’s talent in ample measure.  The use of the large space on stage through dynamic movements by dancers in straight lines, circles and other geometrical patterns, the alternation of sprightly dance movements with still postures, jumps, leg-lifts, bending movements to go with melodious raga-based recorded music from India were the hallmarks of the brilliant choreography.

Choreographer Smt. Padmini Ravi who was trained by veteran dancer K J Sarasa has trained over 500 international dancers and is known for her innovative approach to dance and ability to incorporate elements of allied art forms such as yoga, cinematography and theatre into Bharatanatyam. The effect of using cross-disciplinary techniques in Samprati was mesmerizing as seen for instance in the item featuring dancers gracefully performing Yoga movements in a circle around Lord Bramha played by Smt. Jeyanthi Ghatraju. Boston based celebrities Prashant Palakurthi, the chief guest for the show  (son of an ophthalmologist)had high words of praise for Vision-Aid’s mission as well as the dance ballet. “We are at the beginning of the rise of Indian diaspora’s social activism – as we use our rich heritage to create awareness and affect change for good.” he commented on the social media tool facebook.

For 30 dancers who qualified auditions (Aarohi Darisi, Akansha Deshpande, Akshaya Krishnaswamy, Amrita Thirumalai, Anagha Kumar, Ananya Gurjar, Ananya Venkatesan, Anushya Pandian, Ashya Singh, Divya Odayyapan, Janani Swamy, Jeyasakthi Kannan, Manasi Danke, Medha and Sadhika Hiremath, Nidhi Pillai, Nikita Minocha, Pallavi Krishnamurthy, Preetika Kulkarni, Pooja Kumaravel, Rishika Sai Makkena, Sahaja Surapaneni, Sandhya Reddy, Sanjana Puri, Shilpa Bhat, Shilpa Narayanan, Sirisha Noudhuri, Shreya Hegde, Suma Cherkadi, Swetha Saravanakumar and Vennela Mannava) and eleven Bharatanatyam dance teachers (Hema Iyengar, Jeyanthi Ghatraju, Mari Shakti Muthuswamy, Meena Subramanyam, Pallavi Nagesha, Poornima Risbud, Radhika Jaishankar, Ranjani Saigal, Sangita Raghunathan, Soumya Rajaram, Suman Adisesh) to come together to work with a dance professional from India in order to present a full-length ballet in a short span of three weeks is a credit worthy achievement. 

Twenty event sponsors including Platinum sponsor Harvard-Pilgrim Healthcare donated generously to Vision-Aid (www.VisionAid.org) President of the organization Syed Ali Rizvi, founder Ram Raju, and co-founder Revathy Ramakrishna announced that the funds raised from the event will help expand Vision-Aid programs to three new locations in 2015 – Aligarh, Beharampur and Kanyakumari. 

Shuchita Rao spoke to choreographer Smt. Padmini Ravi after the show.

Q. What was your experience working with the Bharatanatyam teachers and students in Boston?
A. It was a rewarding experience. I have taught Bharatanatyam and conducted workshops for a long time now. This was my 29th workshop. I had a very short time to work with teachers and their students. On a scale of ten, I would say that the students came at proficiency level two but by the time they went on stage they were at level eight.

Q. What similarities and/or differences did you observe in the Bharatanatyam students in Boston versus the students you teach in India?
A. One phenomenon that is common to India and USA is that students want to dance faster and learn faster. They want instant gratification. In India as in the US, there is a lot of interest in the so called “fun” dancing such as Zumba and Salsa. People are learning Belly-dancing to lose weight. In terms of differences, in India, there is a certain distance between a teacher and student . Students are scared of their teachers and never ever question their teacher. Students in the US in contrast, will not hesitate to and ask “Why this” or “Why that”. They would like to understand the reasons underlying the aspects of classical dance. The teacher in the US must be more of a friend than a GURU figure whose presence and knowledge have an intimidating effect. The second difference I observed is that in India students do not feel a major difference between the atmosphere and ambience at home versus the outside world. They are usually enrolled in multiple art activities outside school. Children in the US are used to living in great comfort. They have not been introduced to the fact that the Bharatanatyam art form needs tremendous commitment and practice and that it can be a painful thing. Their resistance to pain is low. But, to their credit I must say that this country teaches them to give their best to what they do. Once the formal barrier between the student and teacher is broken, they become very receptive to teaching and working hard.

Q. Did you have to adapt your choreography in a special way to make it appealing to the students you worked with in Boston?  In your opinion, can Margam (traditional dance) be preserved in modern times in India and abroad?
A. In the name of preserving tradition, you cannot ignore that times have changed. We live in a digital age empowered by technology. Home theatres and Iphones are common tools.  Bharatanatyam must evolve accordingly without compromising on craft. I studied the Natyashastra and discovered that it was fairly liberal in thought. It was not only beautiful but insightful and had something to offer for both the body and the mind. Today, one can hand pick the number of people who have good knowledge of Natyashastra in India. It is recited in Sanskrit shlokas. What is needed is for Natyashastra’s knowledge to be interpreted properly by teachers and made palatable to both students and the wider audience. The names and terms should not be intimidating. People should be able to understand and relate to it as well.

Q. The music for the show was wonderful. Who are the composers? 
A. Shri Ravi Chandra Kulur and Sri Ananta Krishna Sharma composed the music. Ravi is a flautist but also plays the kanjeera instrument. Anant Krishna Sharma is primarily a Mrindangam player but he sang for this production as well. Both composers bring a solid knowledge of melody as well as rhythm. Neela Ramanuja was the female vocalist. Flute, violin and percussion instruments were traditional  but the sitar and synthesizer etc were synthetic sounds. 

Q. Would you want to visit Boston and do another dance ballet production?
A. Absolutely. I would do it again.  I came to Boston on June 29 and in 17 days we were up on stage. 30 students and 12 dance teachers were divided into four groups and I worked with each group from 9AM to 6pm on four consecutive days. It was a rewarding experience and I think everyone enjoyed it because it was a lot of work but a lot of fun too. 

Bookmark and Share |

You may also access this article through our web-site http://www.lokvani.com/

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Copyrights Help