In memory of 9-11: A musical conversation between cultures  
- Helen Henry 

September 25, 2006 

Bharatanatyam in collaboration with African American gospel and classic Western and Middle Eastern music provided a new understanding and awakening in a program at All Souls Church in Manhattan on the eve of the 5th anniversary of 9-11. The event titled "An Intercultural Journey Through Music - An Artful Approach to Breaking Down  Barriers" was headlined by Udi Bar David of Israel (solo cellist and member of the Philadelphia Orchestra on cello), Shoba Sharma (a leading Bharatanatyam performer in the US), Keisha Hutchins of the United States on vocal, Hanna Khoury on violin, Margot Kleary on saxophone, and Michel Baklouk of Lebanon on percussion.  
Shoba Sharma
Shoba, Keisha 
This event brought together artists of many different backgrounds to create a musical conversation between cultures. The musical selections, encompassing improvisations across idioms, felt like a spring of water coming up from under ground.  Shoba Sharma, collaborated with Keisha Hutchins and Udi Bar-David to present a deeply moving rendition of the African American spiritual "Motherless Child." This piece really touches the feelings that we all have at times feeling separate from things that are familiar, and feeling separate from the source of our being. Joined by the soulful singing of Keisha Hutchins and cello accompaniment by Udi Bar-David, Shoba evoked the harsh imagery of an enslaved family separated at an auction. In close collaboration with Keisha and Udi, she brought the theme to a very tangible place through the portrayal of several different characters with exquisite Abhinaya.  In giving dignity to such a theme it was possible to find strength in the midst of sadness, and show the poignancy and beauty that pervades all of our efforts to reconcile loss. In a brighter and joyous mood, the Thillana brought together the considerable talents of the ensemble as they explored and defined a new idiom. Grounded in the outstanding rhythmic Nritta of the dance and the strong percussion support by Arjun and Varun Sharma, the expressive quality of this dance spoke to the exuberance of spirit and the celebration of life. As such it echoed the power and beauty of the music played throughout the program.  

The common connection in this performance was that each artist understood their own idiom so well that they were able to forget the parameters of their discipline to flow together with each other, creating a synthesis of forms with a unity of spirit. How appropriate that this outstanding program was held at All Souls Church in Manhattan and put together by the Peace Task Force in honor of the memory of 9-11. 

In honor of 9-11, the program was performed in New York on Sept 10th.  
Helen Henry is Program Associate, Pennsylvania Performing Arts On Tour, formerly Program Director of the Folklife Center of International House