Rainbow II - Wonderful interpretation of joy, intimacy and freedom 
- Divya Haynes, St. Louis
e-mail: ram_divya@yahoo.com 

May 26, 2006 

Prasanna Kasthuri along with his Soorya Performing Arts dancers presented a spectacular dance performance last weekend at the COCA auditorium. It was the premier show of Rainbow II to full house looking onward at the amazing display of music, dance, and of course color.

Prasanna's multi-talented abilities as a dancer, musician, choreographer, stage designer and lighting effects coordinator came to the foreground with this dance production. Having chosen the poems of well known American, British and Indian poets, Prasanna was ably supported by his 17 senior students and seasoned dancers Pulikeshi Kasthuri from Bangalore, Navia Natarajan from Colorado, Sushma Mohan from New Jersey and his dancer-singer wife Seema Murthy. The music was composed by Pt Vishwamohan Bhatt.

The evening commenced with Rabindranath Tagore's "Where the mind is without fear." 
A delightful combination of Bharatanatyam and Kathak dance performed as the opening song set the mood to what was to be expected in the next couple of hours.

'Where the mind is...'
'My mistress...'

Colorful costumes and creative dance choreography brought out the true essence of the poem "Rainbow" by William Wordsworth. Prasanna and Pulikeshi danced to the poetry that Prasanna himself recited while the dancers with their bright duppattas (scarfs) revealed the beauty of the Rainbow's vibrant colors. 

Following the Nayaka (actor) and Nayaki (actress) tradition of Indian dance, Pulikeshi and Navia aesthetically portrayed the emotional romance in William Shakespeare’s sonnet, "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun." Excellent stage design and lighting and the dancers' beautiful expressions transported the audience into a sober mood.

This was followed by "Human Seasons," a melodic Hindustani composition sung by Pt Parameswar Hegde. The four seasons in every man's life were artistically presented using Kathak Gathbhav. 

Similar to a Javali or a Padam of a Bharathanatyam recital, Sushma Mohan performed the touching poem of Lord Byron "When we two parted." The poem effectively described the Nayika's sorrow and pain due to her separation from her beloved. 

'When we two...'
'The caged bird'

The next poem was an adaptation of Tagore's "On the Sea Shore." Here the children were described playing on the seashore while the sea took on the role of a mother who takes care of her children. The props used to show pirates and the storm very clearly defined the sea in the poem. The students of Soorya Performing Arts displayed complete ease in rendition of their adavus and movements. 

In the next piece, Prasanna presented the concept of slavery and freedom using Maya Angelou's powerful but touching poem "The Caged Bird." The episode of bringing slaves from Africa, the story of Rosa Parks who was asked to get off a bus because she was black was dramatically expressed by Prasanna. The performance resonated in the hearts of both young and old alike. One of the audience members later commented, "I was most impressed with the presentation, particularly the interpretation of Maya Angelou's poem. My 7 and 4 year old nieces were able to sense and better understand the concept of slavery without being overwhelmed."

The evening was brought to a close with a fitting combination of traditional tillana and tarana (dance pieces involving intricate foot work). Overall the production was a grand success. The hard work put in by everybody, especially the students of Soorya Performing Arts truly paid off. Their crisp dance steps, synchronized movements, and smiling faces affirmed the quality of the show presented that evening.

Soulful rendering of vocals and musicians made the event memorable. Vocalists like Pt Parameswar Hegde, Nagamani Srinath, Chaithra, Seema Murthy and Prasanna accompanied by musicians like Pt Pravin Godhkindi on the flute and Pt Vishwamohan Bhatt on the Mohan Veena will always be remembered for their generous support in making this event a big hit.

Blending English poems to Indian dance is a new experiment that Prasanna has carried out and he successfully broke the barrier between the east and the west through this novel endeavor.

Divya Haynes is a student of dance in St. Louis.