Unique dance program
- Vijay Shanker
e-mail: vijaydance@gmail.com
Photos: Madhusudan Menon 

June 25, 2016

To celebrate International Dance Day, a unique and unusual dance program featuring several dancers in varied disciplines was held at the Mysore Association Auditorium in Mumbai on May 1st and was organized by Bharatanatyam exponent Lata Surendra on behalf of Dadar-Mumbai Section of CID (Council of International Dance).

One witnessed the visual quilt of words, chords and rhythms merge to ‘BECOME THE POEM.’ The absorbing afternoon had dancing feet in various styles gather the souls of poets. It began with the presiding guest, the well-known Indian ballroom dancer and Bollywood choreographer, the charismatic Sandip Soparrkar not only defining the dance with his sheer presence but also reaching out with the poet in him.            

What followed was a journey through dance into the soul of various poets. Disciples of Asha Sunilkumar of Sanskriti Academy of Fine Arts presented an absorbing excerpt from the poem “Brahma, Vishnu, Siva” by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in Bharatanatyam. Tagore’s ‘fires of creation and the dark without origin’ soon moved on to Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s “Pralay ki raat” coming to life through the talented disciples of noted Odissi Guru Shubada Varadkar.
Dance is truly ‘music made visual’ and some danced the same path, by using penned compositions.  Bharatanatyam dancer Keerthana Ravi highlighted Saint Purandara Dasa’s composition wherein a Gopika is absolutely taken aback on seeing Krishna at an unearthly hour by her door. The canvas then shifted from Vrindavan to Kailas with Jayeeta Dutta, talented disciple of Guru Murari Sharan Gupta, visually etching the opulence of Shiva and Uma in a swing, an unusual composition by Kazi Nazrul Islam (the revolutionary poet from Bengal). Debi Basu’s disciples highlighted through Odissi the emotional lyricism in Jayadeva’s poem with the allegory of the human soul’s love - jeevatma’s pining for paramatma. Feeling the essence of god in all creation through beautiful contemporary folds came the contemporary dance choreographer Abhishek Rathod and his team.


Debi Basu

Lata Surendra laced the traditional varnam in Bharatanatyam with lines from the 13th c Persian Sufi poet Rumi. She used the verses in an interesting format lending tradition and innovation. Reaching out with her feel of zen poet Matsuo Basho in Subramania Bharati’s poem was Suman Badami and the strains of love and romance was carried onwards in the performance by Rohit Gopinath and Divya Gopinath. Shashikala Ravi then delineated a Kshetrayya padam wherein the poet highlights a young woman’s curiosity about Krishna or Moova Gopala at that age when young hearts are in “love with love.”

Kathak Guru Renu Sharma then sought to focus on fragile emotions penned by Norah Jones and Lee Alexander. The fragile strength of love and lover’s quarrel was then carried onto sublime terrains through Mohiniattam by Divya and Sujatha Nair, disciples of Jayashree Nair. Young Jahnavi Shukla, disciple of Sumitra Rajguru, was followed by Kuchipudi. Disciples of Sailaja Desai took up the poem of Jandhyala Papayya Sastry with the poet urging all humanity to awaken to the human element within them through the poem ‘Pushpa Vilapam’ - the lament of a flower.

Lata Surendra

Vaidehi Rele

Contemporary dancer Richard D’Costa sought to bring to life his own poem. Tradition and  innovation then continued the momentum initiated, with energized performance by Ranjani Ganesan Ramesh and daughter Daksha Swaminathan Ramesh, Sheetal Ravi dancing out her husband’s poem, chaste Bharatanatyam performance by Lata Rajesh’s daughter Sidhi Pillai and disciple, Ankur Bhallal and dancers of Smitalay with an interesting fusion of Odissi and Bharata Nrithyam and Guru Chhaya Khanvate’s disciples with imaginatively choreographed movements. Charming Vaidehi Rele, the grand-daughter of Dr. Kanak Rele, took up Vidyapati’s poem showcasing the unusual stance of Krishna pleading forgiveness from Radha. 
Poetry once again drifted in with Prachi Sathi, disciple of Lata Raman, evocatively bringing to life Tagore’s famous poem Champa Flower.  The center then seemed to focus on women with Simran Godhwani, disciple of Murari Sharan Gupta, taking up the saga of every woman through a poem by Gulzar, interlaced by Sargam composed by Pt. Birju Maharaj.

Disciples of Geeta Venkateswar highlighting Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s Jhansi ki Rani, Kathak exponent Tina Tambe gathering the devotion of Meera as she merged with the idol of Lord Krishna and disciples of Lata Surendra taking up the beautiful poem by Maya Angelou ‘Phenomenal Woman’ concluded the classical dance section with a Taraana or pure dance that had the kinesthetics of Kathak and Bharatanatyam merging in a beautiful visual display of coordinated artistry. The final segment had Jigar Soni and Soni's School of Garba Dance with their power-packed Dandiya performance and concluded with G Dance & Fitness Group. It was indeed a unique program of contrast, variety and poetry.

Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.