“We artistes are like flowers. And Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts has put us together like a beautiful garland in the form of the Sydney Dance Festival,” Vidha Lal, an internationally acclaimed Kathak exponent and Guinness Book of World Records Holder, opines. She couldn’t have been more right as was justly proven by the academy as they once again presented exceptional talents from India on the Sydney Dance Festival stage this year, gracing the stage with an array of classical dance forms ranging from Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak.
The event held on April 7 at the Bryan Brown Theatre welcomed community members and special guests as they moved into their fifth year. Consul General Vanlalvawna and Dr Geoff Lee, Member for Parramatta, were among the noteworthy guests at the do.
At the commencement, Dr Divya Sriram, director of Madhuram Dance Academy quoted the writings from Natya Sashtra: “Let drama and dance (Natya) be the fifth Vedic scripture. Combined with an epic story tending to virtue, wealth, joy and spiritual freedom, it must contain the significance of every scripture, and forward every art”.
The six-hour classical dance feast started with an Odissi dance item presented by Sanatani Rombola, a disciple of Sujata Mohapatra, the famous Odissi artiste from India. Sanatani is of Italian origin and currently resides in Murwillambah, Queensland. Sanatani’s association with spiritual India and Odissi began in her early childhood. She has performed extensively as a soloist across India, Europe and Australia.
Sanatani made a grand entrance with the invocatory dance “Mangalacharanam – Vishnu Vandanan” in Raag Gurjoritodi and Taal Triputa. The piece was choregraphed by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra; its music composed by renowned Odissi Guru, Kelucharan Mohapatra. Sanatani delighted the audience with her excellent performance of the very difficult Aaravi Pallavi that requires elegant lyrical movements of the head, eyes, neck, hands, torso and feet in perfect sync with each other. “Jaya Mahesa” the next item performed by Sanatani was an outstanding presentation of odissi techniques to portray Lord Siva playing his drums. She concluded her performance with “Moksha” – a prayer to the Mother Goddess, Devi.
The next segment included Bharatanatyam presentations by accomplished artiste Praveen Kumar, a student of celebrated guru C V Chandrasekhar and an empanelled artiste of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). Praveen Kumar’s mastery of the art became evident as he commenced with “Shivanjali”, narrating the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. The next phase – Varnam – saw him depicting the friendship between Krishna and Arjuna, as he awed the audience with swift jathis, expressions and storytelling techniques. This was followed by the “Ososi” where he recreated the rift in a passionate relationship between a couple leading to their subsequent union. Then there was the “Javali” that had him enacting an episode of Lord Krishna enticing a Gopika. He concluded his performance with a delightful and energetic “Thillana”.
The third segment comprised Kuchpudi, which was performed by artiste Sailaja Narayanaswamy, a student of eminent guru Dr. Vempatti Chinna Satyam. Sailaja has won many awards, including the Life-time Achievement Award by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 2017. In her first piece, “Sankara Srigiri”, Sailaja depicted Lord Natarja in the well-known composition by Swati Tirunal. Next was “Ashtapathi”, where she portrayed Lord Krishna. Then there was the “Vikshesam Kada Gopala Murthim” in Ragamalika, which saw her dance on a brass plate in typical Kuchipudi format. She signed off with “Mahishasura Mardhini Sthotram”, effectively enacting the victories of Goddess Durga.
The concluding segment was on Kathak, presented by Gauri Diwakar, a Kathak dancer par excellence and student to two eminent gurus, Jai Kishan Maharaj and Aditi Mangal Das. Diwakar began with the “Ganesh Vandana” – an invocation to Lord Ganesha – and proceeded to present four different forms of the Kathak, like Vilambit Laya, Madhya Laya, Bhav and Drut Laya. During each of these stages Diwakar demonstrated her flair of footwork and rhythm proving her command over the dance form.
Throughout the six hours of performances, the Sydney audiences remained spellbound, contributing hugely to the success of the festival.
Quoting renowned dance critic and writer Leela Venkatraman, the president of Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts said, “We want to move forward in encouraging reviewers of such classical dance performances to keep abreast of developments in the art of dance. There is no end to understanding dance more.”