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Madhavi And Arushi Mudgal In A Memorable Odissi Performance

Shuchita Rao

 : Meru Education Foundation presented Madhavi Mudgal and her niece and disciple, Arushi Mudgal in an Odissi dance performance at the National Heritage Museum on Sunday, September 28, 2008. The performance featured live music by a team of talented professionals from New Delhi, India.

The program began with an invocation to presiding deity of Odissi dance form, Lord Jaganath Swamy. Pallavi, a pure dance focusing on Nritta, the rhythmic aspects followed next, replete with grace and rhythmic movements, codified hand gestures and sculpture like dance poses.

The next item was ashtapadis from the famous Sanskrit poem Geet Govind by Jaydeva. Nritya aspects and abhinaya, dramatization with facial expressions came to life in this solo item by Madhavi Mudgal, who portrayed two roles, one of lovelorn Radha looking for Lord Krishna and then of Lord Krishna himself, pleading with Radha for forgiveness.

Arushi presented a solo next, entitled "Vasanth", choreographed by Madhavi Mudgal. One couldn't help bringing up a memory from the past. Arushi had accompanied her aunt in a few years back to Boston and participated in a group classical dance presentation of Odissi and had showed great potential. This time around, she proved that she has blossomed into a mature danseuse with the ability to interact beautifully with the music and present to the audience the best that Odissi has to offer - graceful movements, vivid facial expressions, and perfection in form, hand movements and codified gestures.

Dr. Manisha Sarin of Shrewsbury, MA commented "I have been observing both Madhavi and Arushi for several years. Arushi is undoubtedly Madhavi's best shishya." Diksha, a 9th grader studying at Amsa Charter School in Shrewsbury added, "The dance performance was spectacular. They were very graceful."

A fast paced dance item in Oriya language came next, followed by the concluding items of the afternoon's show, "Pravaha" and Poornamadah Poornamidam shloka featuring the Guru and the Shishya, Madhavi and Arushi together in a brilliantly choreographed sequence that engaged the audience with a truly aesthetic experience. The movements of the two dancers were carefully synchronized. Sometimes the dancers faced each other, sometimes away from each other and sometimes they faced the audience together. They took turns sitting, standing, laying down on stage, covering the entire stage with horizontal, diagonal, semi-circular symmetrical movements, moving their heads, necks, shoulders, hands and bodies with flawless control. The call and response sequences between Guru and Shishya and the sculpture like poses in the rest stops in the music were delightful. Pravaha was a synergy of precision in footwork, grace, abhinaya and ethereal music. Gloria Saulnier of Reading, MA was a member of the audience who summed it up as "I felt I was looking at one person, but two images of the same person. It was incredible. I cannot imagine the training and the work that must have gone into preparing this piece."

The dance program ended at 5 p.m after a vote of thanks by Dr. Vanita Shastri of Meru Education Foundation. Clearly, many important ingredients and detailed planning went into making the Odissi dance performance an enjoyable experience for the audience.

Madhavi’s introduction of each item made each piece comprehensible to all in the audience and was highly appreciated. She spoke extempore and eloquently, explaining details of lyrics, drawing up on historical significance as well as reference in ancient manuscripts such as Natya Sastra, the treatise on Indian Classical dance. She used codified hand gestures and facial expressions to show the lyrical content of the pieces. Carefully chosen words and faultless delivery were hallmarks of her introductions to the dance items.

Live Music: The team of musicians from India was fabulous. Instruments comprised of Pakhawaj, a percussion instrument providing rich and resonant sound, flute that conjured up images of Lord Krishna's divine music, sitar from the string category, harmonium and manjira to softly support the talented vocalist duo - a deep voiced male supporting the flight of a sonorous female soprano. Music was composed by many established composers including Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra, Madhup Mudgal, and Shri Someshwara Rao. There was camaraderie within the musicians and they complimented each other very well. Live music made all the difference to the performance. Gautam Bhattacharya, provided lighting for the show. Working with the lights at hand he was able to highlight various moods and signal the closing and opening of separate segments of dance performance with beautiful colors of blue and yellow.

All in all, it was a perfect treat for a Sunday afternoon for me, my children and friends. The sky was overcast with rain-laden clouds. Rain washed stone and brick paths leading to the stately National Museum of Heritage shone in the partial sunshine. Leaves had taken a deeper hue of orange, red and bright yellow after the first few cold nights heralding Fall season in New England. I was in the company of true "rasikas", painters, dancers, musicians, writer friends within the auditorium. There was peace, beauty and Madhavi and Arushi to present a memorable performance that stirred my heart and touched my soul. Meru education Foundation is to be congratulated for bringing the finest of classical arts to Boston.

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1.Well written review October 6, 2008Manjari Sinha 

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