A dance and music fundraiser
- Lakshmi Swaminathan
e-mail: lakswami@yahoo.com

June 25, 2011

The Indian Student’s Association of University of Maryland organized a Dance and Music Fundraiser for Guruji’s Medical Center in Thennangur, India on Saturday June 11, 2011.  The evening commenced with a fusion dance performance by UMD’s Moksha dance team called ‘A Journey Through Wonderland.’ The piece, an abstract rendition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, told the story of a girl who discovers herself through dance and was very efficiently performed by the dancers Vishney, Monika, Digna, Divya, and Ramya.

The chanting of slokas by the priests spiritually enhanced the ambience following which Sneha Radhakrishnan performed two dance items in the Bharatanatyam style.  Sneha, the daughter and student of Daya Ravi, director of Natraj School of Indian Dance, is well known in the Washington metropolitan area as a fine, young and upcoming dancer. She has won various dance competitions and performed in several prestigious venues in and around this area. She began her recital with “Omkara Vadive Ganesha” and “Nandi Chol” as invocatory dances. Choreographed by Guru Krishnakumari Narendran and Daya Ravi respectively, Sneha was grace personified in her rendition of these dances. Sneha exhibited her grasp on the nuances of nritta and abhinaya in “Bhavayami Raghuramam” choreographed in the varnam format by Daya Ravi.

A journey through the rich cultural landscape of India formed the underlying thread in the evening’s presentations. Keeping to that theme, Sneha also presented dance items in Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri and Kathak styles. She performed Bhama Kalapam very energetically having learned the item from Lakshmi Babu, director of Kuchipudi Dance Academy. Her foray into the world of Odissi through the portrayal of Radha’s lovelorn mood in “Lalithalavanga Latha” was poignant and graceful. Sneha was taught this piece by Sukanya Mukherji, director of Mayur Dance Academy. ‘Water Works,’ a dance organized around the concept of water, was an item performed in the Manipuri style fluidly and elegantly by Sneha who learned this item from Noopur Singha, a Manipuri dancer and choreographer. Sneha performed a Tharana in the Kathak style (for which she trained under Purvi Bhatt, director of Lasya Academy) involving complex rhythmic and musical cycles containing todas, parans, chakardharparans, and footwork patterns crisply and effortlessly.
It is a point to be noted that this is a remarkable feat of accomplishment for a young dancer trained in Bharatanatyam, to learn and perform four other styles in a matter of months. Sneha is to be commended for her discipline, hard work and determination in taking the challenge of such an ambitious project and following it through with a neat presentation.

The dance numbers were interspersed with musical interludes featuring a variety of artists, notable amongst whom was the renowned Dr. Ghatam Karthick. With his impeccable style, nimble fingers and wonderful personality, he had the audience riveted in their seats with his performance on the ghatam.  His interactive session with the audience was much appreciated by all, as was his vocal performance of his own composition Thillana in ragam Ratipatipriya.

The other musical performances that evening included a Thyagaraja Kriti, “Manavyalakin,” performed in the form of “Dhwayam” or pairs of instruments by Vijay Ganesh and Vivek Chellappa on the mridangam, Ghatam Karthick and Sowmiya Narayanan on the ghatam, Subash Vinjamuri and Kamalakiran Vinjamuri on the violin.  A vocal rendition of “Krishna Nee Begane” by Sudarshan Ranganath was another musical item of the evening.  All the artists excelled in their performances and captivated the audience with their expertise. Special mention must be made of the eighth grader, Kamalakiran Vinjamuri, who was brilliant on the violin, without doubt a child prodigy.

The evening concluded with an ode to Goddess Saraswati composed and sung by Ghatam Karthick and performed as a mangalam by Sneha.  Nalini Prakash, the master of ceremonies meaningfully introduced the performances for the evening, and Aparna Ramaswamy provided effective lighting. The tireless efforts of Daya Ravi of Natraj School of Indian Dance and the Indian Student’s Association of the University of Maryland were clearly visible in the cultural feast that was served to the rasikas that evening. It was an engaging program that also served the greater cause of being a fundraiser for a worthy organization.

Lakshmi Swaminathan, director of Natananjali School of Dance, is a Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher based in Bethesda, Maryland. She is also a performing artist with the Maryland chapter of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning, an organization for arts in education.