inaugurated its series of mini-Confluences in March. These shows
grew out of the institution’s larger Confluence shows, which are a collection
of performance styles from around the world presented in one event, thus
a ‘confluence’ of art. The series has been successfully co-sponsored
by the Queens Council of the Arts for the past year and a half.
Confluence featured Chakra Shri’s own student, Sonali Shroff, who performed
a Todai Mangalam, raagam Mallika, taalam Mallika, and a Sankirna Alarippu.
The dance was choreographed by Smt.Tejaswini Raj, who did the difficult,
but beautiful job of playing nattuvangam as well as providing the vocals.
The mridangam was played effortlessly by A.R. Balaskandan. The dance
was followed by a modern improvisational piece by another of Chakra Shri’s
students, Maura Lee. She performed energetically to Balaskandan’s
mridangam. The performances were followed by a lively discussion
about Charka Shri’s work in Queens, the presentation of Bharatanatyam to
secular audiences in New York, and strategies to attract diverse venues
Confluence was marked by performances by artists outside of Chakra Shri.
Mohan Kulasingam, a Bharatanatyam/modern dancer, studied Bharatanatyam
in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is now based in New York. He presented
an energetic varanam, Swami Naan Undhan Adimai in raagam Natai Kuranji,
taalam Adi, composed by Papanasam Sivam, depicting the power and majesty
of Lord Shiva. Mohan’s nritta was crisp and his jatis were dynamic as he
imbibed the energy of Shiva through his vivacious stage presence. Mohan’s
music was arranged by himself, and he also played the nattuvangam in the
recording. The dance was followed by an interactive theatrical presentation
by Diane Henry. Diane is an actor based in New York. She has
worked with Chakra Shri in the past, playing the role of Mother in the
CS Arts’s production of Heer Ranjha. Diane performed a monologue
from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The audience took turns reading
various roles, and had an opportunity to engage in the acting process.
The post-dialogue concerned the history of Bharatanatyam, links between
Bharatanatyam and modern dance. Issues of acting were discussed, which
related to both theatrical work as well as Bharatanatyam, specifically
whether performers ought to acknowledge the audience or not in a staged
were privileged to see a rare Kathakali performance outside of India, by
artist Sadanam Ravi, for the third mini-Confluence on May 24th. He
performed Bhagasuravadam, scenes from the Mahabharata, where he played
Bhima, imploring his brother Yudhishthira to kill the Rakshasa (demon)
Bhagasura. Ravi was bedecked in a colorful dress, typical of Kathakali
dance, a full round skirt made of a sari, adorned with bright gold jewelry
and full Kathakali makeup and headdress specific to the character he portrayed.
He explained in detail how the makeup is applied, as well as the significance
of the colors (here his makeup was according to a Pachavasham, or green
character). Ravi’s performance was riveting in his ability to manipulate
the slightest facial muscle, evoking Ravi also described the rigorous training
that a Kathakali artist must undergo, including daily body massages which
loosen muscles painfully, as well as intensive martial arts (Kalariyapattu)
founder and director of Chakra Shri performed a moving piece to the music
of M. Balamuralikrishna, “Krishan Radhika.” Sridhar beautifully depicted
the longing between Radha and Krishna in the foreground while Craig Kaufman
and Maura Lee represented the male and female energies in the eternal search
for one another. After the performances, Sadanam again gave a demonstration
of the facial nuances that are unique to Kathakali. He presented
the navarasa, as well as scenes from the Ramayana.
Shri mini-Confluences have brought together multifaceted artists representing
many genres. The work that has been presented ranges from centuries-old
traditional forms to newer experimental works. Audiences have had
the opportunity to be a part of the performance, viewing it at a proximity
not found at conventional performances. Intimacy is also fostered
between the audience and artist, offering the audience special insight
into the work, the artist and the artistic process. The Confluence
series is unique and has succeeded in bringing artist and audience together.