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Entertaining dance drama at American Natya Festival in St Louis

Entertaining dance drama at American Natya Festival in St Louis
May 16
11:38 2019

ASHWIN PATEL

ST LOUIS: A premier Indian classical dance festival running for more than a decade now, the American Natya Festival 2019 festival, held in St Louis last month, showcased more than 150 artists from all over the US and India.

Presentation of Sathyanarayana Katha by Asha Adiga and Teamfrom Chicago,

Presentation of Sathyanarayana Katha by Asha Adiga and Teamfrom Chicago,

This was the 11th edition of the festival and was conducted by Soorya Performing Arts, a not-for-profit organization devoted to Indian classical dances. Support was also given by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency supporting performing arts in the state of Missouri.

It turned out also as a venue for the American Natya Idol competition. Curators of the dance festival -Guru Prasanna Kasthuri, Seema Kasthuri and Nagendra Sanjeeva – worked hard to bring in the best dance productions into the 2018-19 series.

On the first day, the host, Soorya Dance School, presented its major works of Kathak and Bharathanatyam. Guru Prasanna’s choreography was excellent in the portrayal scene of Gokula through the famous dance “Asaindaadum”.  The geometric coordination in Jatiswaram and Tillana were very beautiful. Dancers moved between each other in a swift continuum, constantly reconfiguring the space and engineering hidden entrances and exits.

Samanvita Kasthuri presented a well-known Tyagaraja kirthanam, “Sogasuga”, in Shreeranjani ragam. She explored the meaning of philosophy of devotion of Rama through movement and abhinaya. She elaborated the life of Rama through the nine sentiments, commonly known as Navarasa. Compositions of Shankarachaarya, Balamurali Krishna, Dagar Brothers, and Purandara Dasa were presented.

The Kathak dance drama “Parvati Kalyan” was pleasing to the eyes. The dancers presented the story with complete involvement and emotion. With beautiful props, the story showcased the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Sara Parikh and Samanvita Kasthuri carried the show to a new height.

Soorya Dance Company’s SamanvitaKasthuri enacting Shiva, in ParvatKalyan – St. Louis

Soorya Dance Company’s SamanvitaKasthuri enacting Shiva, in ParvatKalyan – St. Louis

“Atma Linga”, presented by the Bharatanatyam students, showcased the story of demon emperor Raavana seeking the most powerful object, the soul of Shiva lingam. Hansika Sakshi and Mounica Gandi did justice to their roles as Ravana and Ganesh; Sanjana Ananda charmed well in Narada’s role; and Samanvita Kasthuri showed the prowess of dancing two styles by performing Bharathanatyam as Shiva in Atma linga.

Vaigai Express was very unique and interesting. Akila Iyer presented her unique idea of train journey with suitcases carried by Bharathanatyam kids, as part of train journey in Vaigai Express from Chennai to Madurai. It was a unique idea to tell a mythological story. The production used the poems of Tamil Sangam literature, Thiruvilay Adal Pur Anam, Thirupugazh, and Ganga Devi’s Madur Vijayam to present Vaigai Express. It was a novel concept.

The next production conducted by Sanjib Bhattacharya was out of this world. He presented Priye Charushile, a well-known Ashtapadi written by poet Jaydeva. He enacted the abhinaya of Radha’s dissatisfaction with Krishna very effectively.  His Dashavatara looked entertaining with usage of multimedia.

Veena Seshadri presented two dances narrating the story of Krishna. One was through a partial Varnam and other was an abhinaya on Bhaja Govindam. As a seasoned artist, she gave a neat presentation.

Dancers from from Natyantaranga team of Bengaluru gave an amazing performance. This team included Guru Shubha Dhananjay along with Mudra, Maya and Yashasvini. It was a very well-coordinated choreography of Odissi, Bharathanatyam and Kathak. Mudra’s dance was impeccable.

Chitra Ramaswamy’s innovation connected two areas of human culture – the West  and the East – coining the stories of Pied Piper and Krishna. The combination of two mythological and imaginative thoughts was remarkable.  M.S Sukhi’s music was apt and melodic.

Visiting Artists from Natyantaranga, Bengaluru, India – performing tri-nrityaShailee

Visiting Artists from Natyantaranga, Bengaluru, India – performing tri-nrityaShailee

The Sathyanarayana Katha came out with vivid colors. Asha Adiga Acharya mesmerized the audience with her dashing multi-character role.  She had a great supporting cast. Her usage of space was very traditional. The production showcased three stories of a popular five-story chain of moral stories. It was well conceived and presented.

The Four Horsemen production was intriguing and raised anticipation. All the four dancers were skillful and artistic. The group choreograph was focused and coordinated with musical patterns. The energy of the quartet provided a beautiful climax. Sonali Skandan did a wonderful job of infusing traditional art form to present something abstract.

The last show was Anupama Rao Mirle’s Shakti. It showcased the struggle of women in the world of men. It shed light on ill-treatment of women from time immemorial. The dance drama was very effective.

American Natya Idol attracted lots of young artists. Samanvita Kasthuri from St. Louis won the senior most category of competition.  Sweta Balaji from Ohio won in the second group and Shrinidhi Sairam from Peoria, Illinois, won the junior group competition. The judges were Guru Shubha Dhananjaya, Guru Sanjib Bhattacharya and Guru Veena Seshadri.

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