Yatra - A journey through dance…. 
August 1, 2004, Rockville Civic Center 
by Shruthi Mukund, Maryland 
e-mail: shrushyam@yahoo.com 

August 7, 2004   

First home production was a Yatra in its own right!  

When Valsala Sekhar of Ushas Entertainment approached my sister, Deepti Mukund, director, Natyabhoomi School of Dance about an available auditorium on the 1st of Aug, we never realized it would turn out to be such a big production. The initial plans were to host my Gurus, the Kirans, popular dance duo from Bangalore, India, since they were going to be visiting the US during July/Aug 2004. We also wanted to include students who weren’t traveling this summer in this project.  

Deepti and I discussed at lengths and we decided to present ‘Yatra - A Journey’ conceptualized by the Kirans. We couldn’t find a better way to present Yatra, along with the Kirans dancing ‘Adhunika’ at our first production. Valsala liked the idea too and we got together to start the planning of the show. We weren’t sure if we could do everything in time considering there would be only 45 days till show time and all the dances to be taught/learnt. Additionally Deepti’s student’s Rangapravesha was on the 24th of July 2004 so we had to add that into our planning time. 

In the span of 90 minutes Yatra gives you an exciting introduction to 4 classical styles - Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, from South India and Kathak and Odissi from North India that are interspersed with 8 folk styles - Kaikottakali - Kerala folk, Oppanah - Muslim Folk, Suggi - Kannada Folk, Karagattam - Tamil Folk, Lavani - Marathi Folk, Garba - Gujarathi Folk, Bihu - Assamese Folk and Bhangara - Punjabi Folk. 

So we needed to find at least 6 dancers for each group. We included all the Natyabhoomi dancers along with students of seven to eight teachers in this area. For the Classical dances, we had choreography help from DC metro dance teachers – Chitra Krishnamurthy, Nrityalaya for Odissi; Lakshmi Babu, Kudipudi Dance Academy for Kuchipudi & Purvi Bhatt for Kathak. For the Bharatanatyam we used the original choreography of the Kirans. 

For the Folk styles, Valsala helped get the Kaikottakali group together & for Bhangra, we had the group ‘Punjabi Legacy’ performing for us. Deepti and I split up the other Folk Dances and took care of the choreography and coordination for them. It was very interesting and entertaining to work with the different groups of students. All of the participants were very eager and happy to be dancing and ready to be pushed to their limits. 

The next stage was costumes. We had to find all authentic costumes for each style. With the help of Valsala, Aparna Sathe, Lakshmi Babu & Rosemary we made it pretty close to the original costumes!  

Simultaneously we were working on collecting the revenue to make the show possible – Advertisements. We were very fortunate to have so many well wishers who came forward and helped us make this show possible. Then came publicity, we tried to get the word out in as many forms as possible, print, email, web & personally. We were looking into all resources… to spread the word! 

Now that we had all the ads, we had to make all our sponsors proud by making a nice brochure. So we got our heads together and designed the layout of the brochure. We found a great Maryland printer who helped us with getting everything ready in time.  

Once Grishma Patel’s Rangapravesha was completed on July 24th we were into ‘Yatra’ full swing. We spent the last week of July having rehearsals nearly every night. We found a nice dance studio to practice, thanks to one of the participants, centrally located for all 60 dancers to meet.  

Sunday morning I had many anxious moments. Once we got to the auditorium I felt better, plus there was so much to do that I couldn’t sit around and think too much! We had a stage run through for all the groups, set up lights and started make up for all the dancers. In the meanwhile my husband brought the Kirans to the auditorium and then before we realized it was showtime! 

The Kirans presented a fantabulous performance – Aadhunika, is an attempt by the Kirans to infuse new concepts into the traditional methods of Bharatanatayam keeping undisturbed the basic requirements of the form. 

They began with a beautiful Pushpanjali followed by the Rudranamavalli. Then they performed the Shivarpanam – as the name suggests, describes the great master of dance, the lord of Universe, Shiva. At the outset, this piece looks very much like a regular composition on Shiva, but as the number proceeds, the presentation can be identified for its imaginative visualization and effective choreography. Shivarpanam is a classic attempt at dramatic and narrative interpretation. Raga – Palini, Tishra Gati Adi Tala 

The Kirans, presenting Aadunika
The next item they performed was Sringara. It is well known that Sringara comprises three aspects-Sambhoga Sringara, Vatsalya Sringara and Bhakti Sringara. In this evergreen classic of Sri Vyasa Raya, Krishna Nee Begane Baaro, the dancers portray Vatsalya Sringara and Sambhoga Sringara to the same lyrics. One dancer took off from where the other had left, creating a collage of emotions. Raga – Yaman Kalyani, Misra Chapu.  

They ended this enticing performance with Natavara Sri Krishna, an adaptation of the traditional Thillana. The Kirans wove a fantasy involving a lovelorn Nayika, besotted with her lord Krishna. The sequence gains a dream like quality with Krishna, now playing games with his Nayika and now gone, disappearing into thin air, leaving her to decide whether what she is experiencing is real or unreal. Raga - Madhuvanti, Adi Tala. 

This was a treat for us to watch their vibrancy, technical excellence and pure joy in their dancing together. 

Right after their performance I announced the beginning of Yatra and the music started… From here on there was no going back, no mistakes, nothing, just the show to take its own course. 

Yatra began with a description of how the NatyaVeda was formed and then the Sutradhars took the audience to Kerala for the Kaikottakali.  

Oppanah, the bride surrounded by her friends
Then the little girls performed the Oppanah, a unique Keralite muslim folk dance.  
Bharathanatyam - Ananda Natamaduva
We then arrived in the land of the temples – Tamil Nadu to witness the Mallari (utsavam of the Lord Nataraja) in Chidambaram and the dancers dancing Ananda Natamaduva Tillai in praise of Lord Nataraja. 

From the same state, the folk dance Karagattam was performed, where the dancers balance decorated brass pots  on their heads.  

Suggi Kunitha
Then we went on to Karunadu, where the people were dancing the Suggi Kunitha or Harvest dance. 

From there we traveled to the place where the Lord of the Seven hills resides, Andra Pradesh, where we saw Kuchipudi being performed in its glory, including the Tarangam or plate dance. The next stop was Maharastra, where the dancers performed Lavani, a vibrant entertaining and sensuous dance. From the light hearted dance of Lavani we went to a different form of spirituality and sensuality – Odissi, which is one of the most picturesque dances that is appealing in form and content.  

Our Yatra then headed westwards to the land of Mahatma Gandhi – Gujarat. The girls performed garba with sticks or dandiyas as well as pots. The next place was Uttar Pradesh where the only sounds that match the ganga are that of the gungroos of a Kathak dancer. This was performed with elegance and intricate footwork. From the central plains of India we traveled to the mountainous terrain of Assam where we witnessed the Bihu, a tribal dance. 

From Assam our Yatra took us to the rustic and exuberant Punjab where the Bhangra was being performed!  

The sutradhars described to the audience how dance and culture are inter-related and is a way of life and that this just a beginning in the journey of discovery.  

‘Our Yatra has begun….’ - a finale including all four classical styles and then the folk styles joined the classical dancers on stage.  

I must add all the dancers worked really hard to make this show a success and give the audience a treat to watch. Also we thank the Kirans for performing for us and sharing “Yatra” with us. 

We would also like to thank Valsala, Malini Sekhar and Ushas Entertainment for helping and encouraging us to bring the group together and putting up the show. 

Last but not the least I would like to mention that my husband Shyam, Deepti’s husband Uday and the rest of our family have been extremely supportive of us. This gives us the energy and inspiration, hopefully to make more presentations!!! 

Till the next Yatra… 

Shruthi Mukund is Associate Director, Natyabhoomi School of Dance, Maryland