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Sydney Dance Festival- a cherishable celebration of classical Indian Dances

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By – Vish Viswanathan

“My dance is a truest expression of who I am, because, in it, all that is best in me is crystallized. When I dance, I feel I am at once, a poet, a painter and a singer. But ultimately for me, dance is a prayer with my being, a transforming experience, joyous celebration of lifeAlarmel Valli (classical dance legend).  The beauty of the Indian classical dances is that they not only transform the artiste over the years to be deliver their best in every performance but also have the effect of mesmerizing or having a “command” over the audience due to professional and enchanting delivery.  This was exactly demonstrated in the literally houseful Sydney Dance Festival organized by Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts on Saturday 16th April 2016 at Bryan Brown Theatre, Bankstown.

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This is the third year Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts is bringing out very talented artistes from India to perform in Sydney.  Madhuram commenced in 2013 by Kalpana Sriram and Divya Sriram. The selection and curation of the artists are done by the directors in conjunction with a selection panel consisting of Smt Chitra Visweswaran, Sri Sunil Kothari and Smt Sujata Mohapatra.

This year Madhuram Academy presented the following four excellent talents in Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak .

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Bharatanatyam

Christopher Gurusamy hailing from Perth, is a graduate of Kalakshetra and has continued his training under Leela Sampson and Bragha Bessell. He is a member of Spanda Dance Company and has toured extensively with his guru Leela Sampson.

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Christopher made a grand entrance with a ragamalika “sami nine kori” choreographed by Swaminatha Pillai, followed by an Asthapadi “Kshna Madhuna”.  In the next Javali item “Muttuvadura” choreographed by his guru Bragha Bessell, Christopher was commanding the audience with energetic display of varying emotions and expressive eye movements which seemed to tell many stories.  Christopher excelled with his abhinaya in this piece and concluded with a delightful “Thillana”.

Kuchipudi

Sreelakshmy Govardhanan a disciple of Sree Pasumarthy Rattiah Sarma. She has been travelling to Kuchipudi village from Trissur Kerala every two months to continue her training with her guru. An extremely dedicated artist she has trained with him in the old traditional style of Yakshganam Kuchipudi from a young age.  She is very dedicated to Kuchipudi.

The traditional Kuchipudi dance items presented by Sree Lakshmi were well received by the audience. It was not only with her performance but also the way she presented and enthusiastically narrating the stories or themes behind each the dance items won repeated applauses. Sreelakskhmi instantly established a rapport with the dance loving audience with a traditional “Sita Pravesha Dharavu”. In her next item “Mandodari Shabdham “Sreelakshmi gracefully presented how Ravana the King of Lanka was mesmerized by beauty of Mandodari and enticing her to marry him. In the next very beautifully portrayed item “ Siggayeno Dharavu” in raga madhyamavathi, Sreelakshmi was a memorable performance depicting the character of Bhama too shy to tell her husband’s name to her friend Madhavi.   The next item Krishna Stuthi was one of Sreelakshmy’s most critically acclaimed choreographies based on the story of Poothana, the demoness who enters Vrindavana as a woman who is captivated with the happiness of Vrindavana and forgets her intention for being there. A motherly instinct gets aroused in her seeing baby Krishna and she forgets the real intention of going there. However, Lord Krishna delivers her Moksha.  Watching all these items one got a feeling that it was mythology brought to the stage.  In the last piece, Sreelakshmi demonstrated elaborate foot movements delivered on the rim of a brass plate.

Bharatanatyam

Divya Shiva Sundar is a disciple and niece of the Dhananjayans. She also has her own dance school in Chennai, Disha where she teaches.

Divya commenced with a delightful “Gayiye Ganapathy Bhajan” by Tulsidas in ragam Balaji and Adi Talam.  The next item “Maha Parashakti” describing Devi as the energy behind the universe performed by Divya was a great depiction of divinity. In the next item by Divya ‘ chaliye Kunjan Mo” the mood changed to romance with the depiction of beautiful love between Radha and Krishna in Brindavan through a shringara kirthanam composed by Swati Tirunal. This was followed by a beautifully choreographed item ‘Idai vida’ in ragam Saveri and rupaka talam when the heroine accuses Lord Muruga of cheating on her. Divya concluded with a thillana composed by Balamurali Krishna.

Kathak

Vishal Krishna is an 11th generation Kathak dancer from the Benaras gharana. He started training at the age 3 from his grandmother Smt Sitara Devi, the doyen of Kathak. His father has pioneered the stylization of dancing on a brass plate in kathak and doing chakkars (spins) on the plate. Vishal still adorns his father’s dhoti on stage and his great uncle’s belt whilst performing. His family and upbringing are steeped in culture and tradition of his gharana from Benaras.

Performing for the first time in Australia, Vishal Krishna received a thundering applause with a vibrant “Shiv Vandana” which was an invocation to Lord Shiva including a kavita by Vishal’s great grandfather Acharyua Pt. Sukhdeo Maharaj. This was followed by an outstanding item “ shruddha Nitya “ a presentation of kathak in traditional Banaras style with Teen Tall 16 beat in two layas. The highlight of the evening was perhaps the “Tarana” presented by Vishal with a combo of great energy, swirls, rhythm and the footwork.   Especially when he performed the rhythm just with his toes the entire audience was jubilated and there was a standing ovation. Vishal concluded with an enchanting Meera Bhajan.  On the whole, whenever he performed, Vishal Krishna’s feet seemed to speak with many emotions and telling many stories.

Not only the audience which included students and teachers from many dance schools in Sydney, the visiting artists also felt it was truly a memorable show and a great evening of classical dances in so many forms.

Consul General of India Hon. Vanlalvawna, Dr. Geoff Lee MP and Dr. Harinath, Chair Multicultural NSW were the special guests of the evening.

The six hour festival concluded with vote of thanks by Divya Sriram from Madhuram Academy.

The Indian Telegraph congratulates Madhuram Academy of Performing arts for the very successful Sydney Dance Festival and wishing them great years ahead in their future projects.

The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia

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