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A Two In One Treat ! A Kuchipudi Dance For A Cause!

Yogini Shanthi

A Two in One Treat! A Dance For A Cause!

I was blessed to be present at the Kuchipudi Rangapravesam of Kum. Krishna Sampada Velury and Kum. Leela Gabriella Mennillo on August 17, 2013 at the Park theater in Rhode Island.

It was a moment of joy for Guru Smt. Prafulla Velury not only because her two students were going to express their full range of skills in public, but also because one of the students Sampada, was her own daughter. I was really looking forward to it, because I myself have a daughter who dances Bharatanatyam with me on stages.

Sampada and Leela entered the stage with grace to the commanding voice of their Guru, and began with prayers to the blissfully dancing Ganapati, through the dynamic song of “Ananda Nartana Ganapathim”. They continued with the beautifully choreographed piece of “Jayamu Jayamu Lalitha Kalavaniki” paying obeisance to Goddess Sarasvati, Guru, poets, composers, musicians and the audience 

The next item was a Javali “Nee Maatalu Emayanura” a solo item by Samprada after a costume change, in which she portrayed young Satyabhama. Her eyes and movements showed very distinctly anger and disappointment that she did not get the rare flower of Parijata while Rukmani got it from Sri Krishna.

This item proved that Sampada’s skill in portraying emotions is in par with her talented mother and Guru Smt Prafulla Veluri. I would call this item the ‘climax’ of Sampada’s recital, for, she captivated the audience who were surprised that the young Sampada could show matured emotions with such ease. From anger, her emotions remarkably changed to love when she was promised that she would get an entire Parijata tree planted in her backyard. Sampada, I bow down to you.

In the next item “Sogasuga Mridanga Talamu”, Sampada, for her Sanchaari, effectively portrayed the scene where Lord Rama broke the Shiva Dhanus and took the hand of Sita, while all the other kings including Ravana entered the competition with over confidence and pride and then became laughing stocks. This item further proved Sampada’s mastery of Abhinaya which is difficult for even many senior dancers.

Sampada concluded her solo part with Shankara Sirigirinada in praise of Lord Shiva. Audience took note of Sampada’s clear Mudras and crisp Nritta in all her items.

Leela began her solo performance with “Jaya Jaya Durge” and effectively portrayed Mother Durga, the vanquisher of all enemies.

Leela’s next two items “Mayil Vahana” on Lord Subramanya and “Vellai Tamarai Poovil Iruppaal” on Goddess Sarasvati, were welcome changes for a Kuchipudi Rangapravesam. Usually the items chosen would be in Telugu, but these two items were in Tamil. Leela looked just like Goddess Sarasvati bedecked and dressed in white. Much notable was the prop of a white lotus which was lovingly made by her own father Dr. Roger Mennillo. He had also made other great props for the entire recital.

Sampada and Leela concluded their Rangapravesam with the item “Swagatham Krishna”. Sampada transformed into real Krishna as she came from the audience area to the stage by playing real flute. She had mischievous eyes and smile that made me want to be a Gopi there instead of Leela who played the role of a graceful Gopi. She, together with Sampada, showed the 10 incarnations of Krishna beautifully. The Narasimha Avatara by the duo was especially notable. In keeping with the Kuchipudi tradition, the two danced on the brass plate without missing a beat.

Leela and Sampada exhibited their musical skills by singing aloud during the recital. They also gave detailed explanation of the songs they were performing for very clearly, to make it meaningful for the audience.

Leela mentioned that she learned flexibility through the preparation for this final day, as her Guru, whom she and other students and even parents lovingly call as “Akka” (elder sister) would keep changing the choreography and steps every time she came for practice.

How was it a two in one treat?

For two reasons: (1) It was a visual treat by two budding artistes. (2) During costume change, the accompanying artistes entertained and elevated the audience to a different world through their scintillating music. So the audience enjoyed both music and a dance recital on the occasion.

 The accompanying artistes included: Smt. Durga Krishnan on Veena who represented Goddess Sarasvati, as she wore a white sari on that day and played the instrument with divine melody; Sri Surya Sundararajan who not only proved his skill on violin but also sang a song and proved his vocal versatility; When Sri Gaurishankar was swiftly moving his fingers on Mridangam, it was like a competition between Mridangam and the Nattuvangam bells of Guru Prafulla, as to which would go faster. Smt Hema Balasubramaniam ably supported the show through her flute and Morsing's player Sri Narayana garu addition was a great treat.

Smt. Sushma Yechuri who came to render vocal support changed her role and instead became a make-up artist. This means Guru Prafulla, without any support, sang for the ENTIRE dance recital while taking care of the Nattuvangam too. She is one of those rare few who can do this with a casual ease. Guru Prafulla’s choreography was par excellence. When she says the Jatis, the force of her voice would make someone who does not know to dance at all, be inspired to get up and dance. She undoubtedly has the support of her husband Srinivas Velury who has contributed his part in this Rangapravesam by designing an attractive brochure. 

Now, how was this “A Dance for a Cause”?

Guru Prafulla has been grooming her students well to give back to the society and is surely an “Akka” in true sense, because she herself is a giving person. Her student Rashi Gupta , in place of gifts for her Rangapravesam in 2010, accepted donations to the non-profit Bachpan Bachao Andolan (www.bba.org.in) which works for rescuing and rehabilitating child slaves in India. Now Sampada and Leela followed the tradition and sought donations for “Special Olympics RI” (www.specialolympicsri.org) which provides opportunity to all children to experience success and teamwork through sports. The two raised $6000 for this cause. Bravo!

What a high level of thinking for these young artistes! They inspired other people also to give back to the society.

In all, the Rangapravesam of Sampada and Leela was a memorable recital, with support from sound system, lighting, the accompanying musicians and their friends and my daughter and I left the hall feeling inspired to begin thinking about her Rangapravesam.

-Yogini Shanthi -

Happiness Alchemist, Storyteller, Art & Culture Educator

Yoga for Happiness
Getting Back to Happiness through Daily Happiness Practice
Phone: 401-305-5265       www.yogaforhappiness.com  





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