Danse-athon - The French Connection! 
- Ranjana Dave 

May 7, 2006 

Natya STEM Dance Kampni & Alliance Francaise de Bangalore celebrated  World Dance Day & the 10th Year of STEM Dance Kampni on April 25, by showcasing an extravaganza of classical, contemporary, martial and folk dance forms. Kathak guru Maya Rao, Usha Datar, Geeta Narayanan and Amit Heri graced the gathering. 
The program commenced on a lively note with a group of Somana Kunitha performers from Lakshmi Venkateshwara Natya Mandir leading the audience into the concert hall. Natya STEM Dance Kampni performed excerpts from their various works, including Mandala, based on the ancient Buddhist art of the same name, and Tarana, which was a blend of Flamenco and Kathak. Interestingly, Tarana was a collaborative effort with artist Raghava KK, where the dancers gave form, shape and movement to his paintings. Raghava also appeared on stage with the dancers, and added colour to their movements with his vivid strokes. 
Madhu Nataraj Heri reminisced about the humble beginnings of STEM Dance Kampni in the Alliance auditorium. Their first performance as a group was held there, with the troupe members pitching in, in their own small way to get it up and running. She thanked guru Maya Rao for supporting STEM through the hard times. 
Kuchipudi dancer Vyjayanthi Kashi enacted the famous Amrita Manthan scene from Indian mythology in a very energetic fashion, where Lord Vishnu appears in the form of the beautiful maiden Mohini and outwits the asuras. Sanjay and Shama Shantaram, trained in both Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, did a tarangam based on the six senses that human beings possess. Their balance and skill came to the fore in the sequences with the pot and the plate that are characteristic of a tarangam. 
The organisers tried to give all the dance forms their due. Probal Gupta rendered an interesting padam choreographed by Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty in the Kathakali style. To complete this cultural circle, Odissi dancer Vani Madhav, from the Deba Prasad Das gharana, performed 'Dasavatara,' the glorious description of Lord Vishnu's ten incarnations. 
Another captivating display was the mime by Kala Gangotri. Two artistes from the troupe enacted a woman dressing up for a meeting with her lover and had the audience in splits. Their comic timing was indeed commendable, and they made optimum use of the sound effects. 
Apart from this spectacular display of energy and movement, there were some engaging talks on dance education and dance documentation by Geetha Narayanan and Ashish Khokar respectively. Narayanan lamented the perception of dance as an 'extra-curricular' activity and stressed the need for dance education in order to create an appreciative audience. She spoke about how there were no takers when a few artists volunteered to teach dance in Bangalore schools. Khokar discussed the importance of archiving the history of dance and information on practitioners who have helped in the evolution of various art forms. Both of them managed to provoke the listeners' grey cells in a very constructive manner. 
Eric Rousseau, director of Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, commented on how this showcase of Indian art in an essentially French space would make Indo-French cultural bonds even stronger. This was one of those special evenings when the artistes managed to put their art across to a potpourri of people from different cultures and countries, by emphasizing on an unbroken chain of passion and fulfillment that is the base of art.