Russian ballet Firebird in Mysore  
- S R Krishna Murthy, Mysore  

August 24, 2006 

D Keshava, dancer, choreographer, yoga exponent, costume designer all rolled into one, is an alumnus of the University of Fine Arts College, Mysore.  He is now a resident of Basel, Switzerland, where he has established a dance school, by name 'Kalasri' propagating the Indian traditional dance forms to foreign students.  Being an exponent of Yoga, he is also teaching the nuances of this to them, creating a niche of Indian culture among the curious and serious learners alike, throughout the European countries. Apart from many awards and titles he has received, he happens to be the first non resident Kannadiga to receive the coveted Kannada Rajyotsava Award in 1997. He has been invited to perform in the World Kannada conference in the United States of America (USA), organized by AKKA, during this year. Incidentally, he also runs a dance school by the same name at JP Nagar, Mysore. He was visiting his native place Mysore accompanied by his daughters, Anjali and Sumitra and half a dozen of his disciples on a holiday, recently. His Alma Mater, the Fine Arts College utilized this opportunity for organizing a dance recital, which he gladly obliged. The program was held on July 29, 2006 at University Centenary Hall, Mysore. The occasion also marked his 60th birthday.  
Keshava planned mainly to present a Russian ballet, the theme of which was based on a Russian folk story Firebird. This famous European modern ballet has music scored by Igor Stravinsky (1910).  Keshava has choreographed the dance portion using different styles of dance forms, including some movements of Bharatanatya.  Even the costumes donned by the characters are his effort. As some of his students were accompanying him during this tour, the task was easy for him. He also sought the services of some dance students and exponents of the city, who received a rigorous training for a fortnight and presented this wonderful Russian ballet item. The title Firebird, when translated into Kannada literally means Benki Hakki.  Apart from the main item, a couple of Bharatanatya items also featured in his program. 

The presentation began with a Pushpanjali by Anjali and Sumitra.  After the salutation to the Gods and the audience, Ardhanareeshwara by Keshava and his children stole the show. The emotions expressed were very poignant. The main item of the fare, the Russian ballet came as the concluding number. 

The story of Firebird is based on a popular Russian fairytale.  Ivan Tsarevitch, a prince happens to stroll in a magic garden. He sees a flock of supernatural heavenly Firebirds resting in the place. Enchanted by the beauty of the birds, he sets a net to capture them.  One of the birds is caught. The captured Firebird requests the prince to set it free, and in return, promises to help the prince in distress. Under this understanding with the Firebird, the Prince lets it free. The bird hands over to the Prince a quill from its feathers before flying away.  This quill has the magical powers to bring the bird in front of the Prince.  The beauty of the garden attracts thirteen princesses and they come to the garden to spend some time there. Eventually they are kidnapped by a villain by name Kashchei. Our good Prince Ivan comes across the captured Princesses and tries to release them from the clutches of the villain. In the process, he falls in love with one of the princess Tsarevna. But Kashchei and his evil forces capture the Prince too. The Prince remembers the promise of the Firebird and he pulls out the quill and calls the bird. The Firebird immediately appears and helps the Prince to demolish the evil forces and kill Kashchei. The story comes to an end with the happy union of the Prince and the Princess.   

The lead role of Firebird was enacted by Keshava's elder daughter Anjali and that of the prince was donned by Chetan Hebbar of Mysore.  Keshava was the exorcist king Kashchei.  The entrance of the Firebird and that of the evil king thrilled the audience.  The movements of all characters, around a dozen, were superbly synchronized to the tune of Igor Stravinsky.  There was never a dull moment throughout the action packed hour and a half.  

Keshava and his team fully deserved the standing ovation they received after the show. All the accolades are the result of the painstaking training Keshava imparted to the participants in such a short time. 

SR Krishna Murthy is an art critic based in Mysore.