A unique traditional and contemporary dance concert at Ananda Ashram, New York
by Dorothy Krauss-Eisenpress
August 18, 2003
a feast! And a joyous occasion! It was a privilege to be in the audience
at Ananda Ashram on the afternoon of Sunday, August 3rd as Director of
the East-West School of Dance, Pt. Satyanarayana Charka welcomed Madhu
Natarajan-Heri, to the beautiful Blue Sky Center stage.
What a splendid afternoon . . . the torrential rains outside could do nothing to dim the radiance inside as Madhu Natarjan-Hari’s STEM Dance Ensemble presented their unique and exhilarating concert of Indian traditional and contemporary dance, accompanied by musician/composer Amit Heri. Like a jewel, one could savor one facet or another - art at its best, education raised to a compelling level, joy of family . . . it was a feast, a cross-generational, cross-cultural celebration.
East-West School of Dance’s Founder-Director Satyanarayana Charka glowed like a papa as he introduced the renowned company headed up by Madhu Natarajan-Heri, daughter of his guru Maya Rao. It was the anticipation of her birth into the world that made necessary his first position as producer-in-charge of Maya Rao’s Natya Institute of Choreography in Delhi almost 30 years ago, and he beamed as he welcomed the audience into the family circle whose most recent artist clearly upholds the high reputation of her famous mother and takes it a step further.
STEM’s dance art is truly exceptional and uplifting. I felt drawn, as if enchanted, watching Madhu’s traditional dance and abhinaya, enveloped by beautiful movement, moved by a spirit greater than the individual artist herself, vulnerable, fully present. Similarly, her husband Amit Heri relates to his instrument and medium and draws the listener into the world of sound. Madhu’s “Yeshodara” and Amit’s “Peace Song” were my personal favorite items of the afternoon, as I became unconscious of time and lost in the beauty of movement and sound. This is by no means to diminish the wonderful contemporary pieces that Madhu has lovingly, capably, joyfully choreographed, committed to exploring a dance idiom arising from Indian sources - classical dance, folk dance, yoga, martial arts of Kerala and Manipur to name some of her sources, but I leave that to more knowledgeable viewers to discuss.
During the wonderful question-and-answer session following the performance, it was a joy to see Madhu and her artists full of that same vitality as they eagerly shared their thoughts and ideas and responded to the questions of the afternoon. Education at its best.
The Guest Speaker, Dr. Ramkaran Sharma the president of The International Association of Sanskrit Studies in New Delhi – comments offered the best summary. The audience was transported - all senses deeply satisfied. The young ones in the audience were chattering happily - it was GREAT - SOMETHING NEW AND INSPIRING. The artists and savants present were no less enthused - pleased to see vital and promising contemporary work firmly rooted in a great classical foundation and appreciation of the Indian sources available to Indian artists who want to take their art a step further.
Thanks so much for bringing this wonderful opportunity to us, East-West
School of Dance.