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A Small Milestone For A Dance School – But A Large Leap Towards Humanity

S. Ramamoorthy

Natyanjali School of Bharathanatyam has a specific motto, apart from its basic objective to teach this fine art. That is, to propagate and extend the bliss of Indian classical dance to those who have less or no access, and a mission to perform and raise funds for commendable charities. A glimpse of its annals reveals the wide ranging activities engaged by the school and its director, Jeyanthi Ghatraju, for the past 10 years in the Boston area. Perhaps, the celebrations of the school’s tenth year could be a simple affair- may be within the four walls of a small premise before some invited audience; this is one side.

On the other side, SAHELI is a veritable social organization with a human commitment to serve for the distressed Asian families. Their involvement to this just cause has been ongoing for quite some time now, albeit quietly. It was purely an exhibition of generosity by both organizations to unite and unfold a program of Bharathanatyam, with a social message to deliver. Ahimsa through unity of faith was the theme chosen and this aesthetic show of fine sentiments was held at the Locke Middle School auditorium, Billerica, MA on the 11th of October as part of Natyanjali's 10th anniversary celebrations and Saheli's domestic violence awareness campaign.

The program commenced with Nrita Vandanam, the curtain raiser, in which the dancers paid their obeisance to the Almighty for the removal of all obstacles. This was set to a fast tempo and the dancers executed their prowess in performing along the line. In the second item, Kalam Kalamai, the artists highlighted the greatness and melodiously rich synergism of the art replete with all natya lakshanas. This item is a composition by the great exponent Madurai Muralidaran in a beautiful blend of different ragas and each group took turns in highlighting the various aspects with their clean interpretation.

Following this came the piece de resistance` - Devaki Nandana varnam - the epic work of Madhvacharya in tasteful Thilang raga. In this gorgeous presentation, the dancers took the audience through the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu, with the clarion call to bring religious harmony through love and service. In the sanchari for kalki avataram, the boat episode was indeed the revelation of creative imagination in choreography and an exemplary execution. The highlight of the sanchari was the fact that every religion is but a boat in our journey to the One Supreme and no one religion is superior to another. A striking feature in the 10th anniversary celebrations of the school was the participation of some of the eminent dance teachers in the area as a fine gesture - Sujatha Meyyappan, Thenu Rajan, and Sapna Krishnan joined Jeyanthi in presenting this central piece. They lent significant support to glorify this number with their talent and hard work.

‘sarve jana sukhino bhavanthu’, an ideal common in all the faiths was very well emphasized in the number, Maithreem bhajatha, composed by His Holiness Sri Chandra Shekara Saraswathi . In this item, the poet emphasizes conquering the hearts rather than the personal belongings, to stop war and renounce undue competition. The difficult philosophical lyrics were interpreted by the young dancers of Natyanjali quite well and they brought out the essence of this gospel with their expression-packed dance movements, to the delight of the audience.

The acme of the program was a unique thillana, in all its elegance and execution. This is a composition by the ever melodious musical legend, Dr.Balamuralikrishna, in the grand Garudadhwani raga. The passage of swarams in this work was quite fast and interwoven with short and swift twists. The artists did a great job in bringing out the nuances in choreography and rhythmic style through their excellent and synchronized performance. The program brochure acknowledged the special assistance given by Prince Rama Varma of Thiruvananthapuram to Jeyanthi and the musicians; sure enough, he'd be proud of this work.

Even while the program was drawing to conclusion, one of the excited audiences remarked, “The message of uniting differing religions was very well portrayed in the boat story. This was indeed a novel effort by Jeyanthi. The performing artists did a fine job to emphasize this gospel.”

The culmination of the program was the mangalam, which was a variation altogether from the usual, but in tune with the very motto of the program. Om tat sat sri Narayana tu Purushotama Guru tu, brought out the significance of the One Supreme in various names and forms and a call to people embracing varying beliefs and customs, to pray in one fold for the well being of all beings, and peace for the entire universe.

The vibrancy and energy which onstage orchestra bring to a Bharathanatyam recital were proved once and again by the renowned musicians of the New England Area. Uma Sankar (vocal), Indhra Rajashekhar (nattuvangam), Krishnan Parameswaran (violin), Gaurishankar Chandrashekar on the mridangam, and Dr.Suresh Mathur on the flute, complemented each other's talents, experience and skills and rendered a fine musical support for the dance program. The high quality sound engineering provided by Jawed Wahid added to the smooth and uninterrupted flow of the recital.

The entire presentation neatly covered by Ranjani Saigal, with her anecdotes and oratory elaborations, kept the audience in good cheers throughout the program.

Towards the end of the program, the Chief Guest and an accomplished senior guru, Smt. Neena Gulati, complemented Jeyanthi for always putting her whole heart in any of her efforts and wished her and the school many more years of success. Diplomas from the Alagappa Performing Arts Academy (APAA), Karaikudi, India, were distributed to the graduating students of the certificate program (Jahnavi Raparthi, Neha Pillai and Nithisha Prasad) and associate degree program (Svetoslava dePaula).

The audience on their part also played their role in appreciating the cause and conduct of the program. Many in the audience congratulated Jeyanthi for her unique efforts in bringing renowned musicians, and dance teachers to be part of her dance school's anniversary, thereby, showcasing unity and sharing of passion. What a great tribute!

The students of Natyanjali showed their appreciation for their Guru in their own way, through their flawless performance and dedication and made their guru quite proud. The efforts of countless volunteers in planning, setting up and the smooth running of the program were commendable. All in all, the program was well conceived and nicely executed indeed, by one and all!

(S. Ramamoorthy is a Retd. Joint Director of Agricultute, State Govt. of TamilNadu, India. He has a passion for music, literature and performing arts, and resides in Westford, MA. )

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