Natya Pradeepam: A scintillating Kuchipudi dance recital 
- UshaSree Chamarthy MD 

July 16, 2006 


On July 9, 2006, this program was presented under the aegis of Natya Dharmi, Foundation for Performing Arts, in association with 'Spread India' and 'Illuminasia.' 

Famously known as 'The first dancing family of India,' Radha and Raja Reddy, with Kaushalya, Yamini and Bhavana of New Delhi, India began their tour of USA in Michigan. From start to finish, the Reddy family had the audience captivated and spellbound with their scintillating Kuchipudi dance recital at the Lawrence Tech. University Auditorium in Southfield, MI. 

After a warm welcome by Dr. Srikala Yellayi and Bhavani Murthy, the program began with an invocation 'Saraswathi Vandana.' A deviation from the oft done Ganesha Vandana, this opening item in praise of the Goddess of Knowledge was rendered by Raja and Radha Reddy. Both song and dance were a very pleasant and crisp beginning that set the mood of the event for both the artistes as well as the audience. 

The famous and catchy, 'Kalinga Nartanam' of Oothukkadu Venkata Subbayyar with imaginative choreography and brisk movements was well presented by their younger daughter 15 year-old Bhavana Reddy. 

In the brief introduction of each item, Raja Reddy was able to capture the attention of the audience, critics and lay patrons alike.  Using a 'lec-dem' (lecture-demonstration) method, Raja Reddy introduced the 'Navarasas,' the nine emotions that are incorporated in the song praising Lord Shiva. In the ever popular 'Aadenamma,' striking poses and challenging 'karanas' marked the performance by the elder daughter Yamini Reddy. Her facial expressions during the dance performance are yet to measure up to her father.  

In 'A dream sequence,' the sweet romance between Usha and Aniruddha was depicted convincingly with much grace and subtlety by the duo known for their portrayal of 'sringara.'  Their age was lost in their depiction of the young Princess Usha and Prince Aniruddha.  

The grand finale, 'Laya Vibhag' was a thunderous amalgamation of pure dance. Kaushalya who was doing the nattuvangam, joined them here. With Manda KrishnaMohan singing Ragalapana as 'background,' Baanna Bhaskar Rao concurrently offered mridangam and konnakol (vocal rendition of the percussion notes) which was a very challenging 'sawal-jawab' to each of the artistes in the Reddy family. Each of them depicted one of five 'gathis' or rhythms before integrating into complex dance patterns. 

The program concluded with a very differently portrayed plate dance, also a hallmark of the Kuchipudi nrithyam, somehow reminding one of the River Dance show (Irish tap dancing). Maintaining the fast paced rhythmic sequences characteristic of the traditional Kuchipudi dance style, pristine purity of rhythm and movement were evident from start to finish in this two-hour recital. There was actually no intermission. To the audience who watched spellbound, there was an inexplicable feeling of actual participation. This speaks of truly scintillating and enjoyable experience.  

The artistes were ably supported by their team of musicians with Manda KrishnaMohan rendering the vocals, Bhaskara Shankaranarayanan on the violin, V Nagaraju on the flute and Bhaskar Rao on the mridangam. 

Vote of thanks was given by Sandhya Sree Athmakuri (Founder and Director, 'Natya Dharmi, Foundation for Performing Arts,' Rochester Hills, MI). Reflecting on her own role as the main coordinator of this immensely successful show, Sandhya Sree acknowledged the efforts of all who helped. "We were not a big organization... We were just a few friends who were like family, brought together with the zeal to help sustain our rich art and culture and the artistes, in our own humble way and also to give exposure to the people here of the artistry of the legends who have lived and breathed this art all their life..." 

The program was a great success with audiences patronizing this show not only from the metro Detroit and suburbs, but also from Lansing, Ann Arbor, Jackson and Toledo. The enthralled audience left the auditorium on the note that those who missed seeing the show missed out on something very valuable in their life!  

Raja Reddy is not only a seasoned dancer/choreographer but also a teacher par excellence. Along with Radha and Kaushalya, 3-day workshops were conducted at the Bharatiya Temple, Troy, where the aspiring dance students of Sandhya Sree, availed the 'once in a life time' opportunity to interact with the dancing legends.  

We wish them every success for the rest of the tour.