Indian dances astound heart of America
Narayanaswamy & Shubha Subbarao
April 27, 2010
St. Louis Indian Dance Festival held over the weekend of April 16th-18th,
2010 was a tremendous success with more than 55 performing artists and
over 15 dance performances. The festival attracted close to 1000 people
at the Clayton High School Auditorium in St. Louis, Missouri. Showcased
were various dance forms not only from the East Indian subcontinent but
also included certain collaborative styles such as Irish dance and the
Spanish Flamenco which added an international flavor to the festival.
The performances, costumes, music and dance complemented each other and
gave a well-rounded experience to the patrons.The brainchild
of Guru Prasanna Kasthuri, the artistic director of Soorya Performing Arts,
the festival brought over a dozen different dance styles to the public
all on one platform. St. Louis watched highly professional artists perform
with ease and grace, yet holding the nuances of their styles in great esteem.
The traditional lighting of the lamp to inaugurate the three day festival
was followed by a Bharatanatyam program by students of Soorya Dance Company.
These highly talented students showed off their wonderful footwork and
expressions accompanied by beautiful music. The highlight of Friday's performance
was a solo Bharatanatyam performance by Suryanarayana Murthy, a disciple
of Guru Dhananjayan, who had traveled all the way from Chennai, India.
The audience was completely delighted with the performance. His footwork,
gestures and abhinaya were perfect. Another show which mesmerized the audience
was the Kathak dances from Kathak Nrithyakala Kendra, Chicago. With eye-catching
costumes, this was a very enjoyable performance as the traditional Kathak
pieces were followed by a few ‘fusion' pieces.
evening, the audience was dazzled by Asha Dwarka, Chitra Kalyandurg, and
Lavanya Thamire, artists from Kuchipudi Kalanidhi, Washington D.C, whose
amazing expressions, footwork, and choreography was captivating. Apart
from the routine dance number, they performed Nostalgia, a composition
of Yanni, with elegance and brought an aura of rare creativity with Kuchipudi.
Choreographer Anuradha Nehru was truly incredible. Yamini Saripalli performed
pure traditional Kuchipudi. The festival featured contemporary Indian dances
from Navarasa Dance Theater. The three artists performed with high energy.
The performance combined dance, storytelling and martial art kalaripayattu.
They tried to convey few stories which lacked enough background information,
and thereby not understood by most of the viewers. Their attempt to entertain
younger audience with their jokes and acrobatics was not very well received,
but overall the performance was a bold attempt.
Kathak performance and choreographic style was breathtaking. Pampa Dance
Academy from San Jose, CA did an amazing job. The Bharatanatyam dance drama,
Paramananda, was the last show of the evening and it was worth the wait.
Guru Nirmala Madhav's simple, yet captivating choreography presented a
high caliber performance combining stories of Ganesha and Krishna in a
smooth flowing repertoire, with a dance troupe of about 14 dancers in coordinated
costumes.There was an overwhelming
crowd on Sunday. The auditorium was packed. The shows included dances from
many states of India. There was Yakshagana and Kolata from Karnataka. The
costumes were varied and remarkable. Smitha Rajan, the renowned Mohiniattam
exponent, who resides in St. Louis, presented this dance style from Kerala.
The audience liked Indique, from Dallas, Texas for their innovative Bharatanatyam
program. Dandia, a traditional folk dance from the eastern state of Gujarat,
was very enjoyable.The grand finale
of this festival was ‘Fanaa' (Destroyed in Love) by Soorya Performing Arts.
Fanaa was a dance musical on love and war based on the conflicts in the
Kashmir region of India. It was based on the super hit Bollywood movie
by the same name. The reversing of a movie such as ‘Fanaa' on stage was
done with great enthusiasm. The costumes and the choreography were mesmerizing.
All the songs were very enjoyable. Guru Prasanna Kasthuri's musical talent
was evident throughout the musical. Original scores of “Lal Kila Aur Raaj
Sabha” and “Dhoom Dadaka hai har taraf” became instant hits. The audience
loved the dance sequences. This show stood out from the rest. Fanaa
is a very patriotic movie. The girl had to sacrifice her love for the sake
of her country. The entire Fanaa dance musical was produced in Hindi language,
which was difficult for non-Hindi speaking audience. It had a representation
of violence to enact the concept of terrorism apart from love and patriotism,
which was improper for the younger audience. Prasanna, Seema Kasthuri,
Lily Sugathan, Falgun Dave, Sandhya played the key roles with about 40
artists, who not only performed with great ease and poise but also brought
a novel ending to the three day festival.
St. Louis Indian Festival was very well received by the art patrons of
St. Louis and nearby areas as seen in the packed auditorium on all three
days of the festival. There was a sense of cheerfulness, with the professional
dancers from all over the world pouring into the city. Organizations such
as the Missouri Art Council and Regional Art Council are to be commended
to have taken the interest in investing in festivals such as these through
generous grants. It is hoped that Missouri will continue to encourage
the performing arts in the coming years as well.
Narayanaswamy is a dance patron and a Carnatic musician residing in St.
Subbarao, an author, dance patron, community volunteer, has written 3 books
in English on different cultural topics of India.