by Shyamala Shivkumar 

October 2002

Govardhana scene with 
Krishna, Yashoda, villagers including a deer!!
baby krishna with gopis from 
"Theeradha Villayattu Pillai"
Upasana, a classical dance group formed by Mrs.Deepa Ganesh with the vision of promoting local talent in the field of dance, presented it’s second production Shaswat, on October 11, 2002 at the Sheikh Rashid Auditorium in Dubai. Deepa Ganesh is a Bharatanatyam exponent, having learnt under Padmashri Adyar K.Lakshman. She has specialized in abhinaya under the guidance of Padmabhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan.  Deepa conducts classes for children and young adults in Dubai.  

Last year, Upasana staged a classic two-hour dance drama Rasa Ratnakaraha, wherein the nine rasas that reflect all of human emotions were explored through the central character of Sita. The performance drew a full house and remarkably favourable coverage in the local press – English, Malayalam and Arabic. The overwhelming response that was received from all sections of the Dubai audience was indeed gratifying, and spurred the group to plan its second production.  

Conceived, directed, and choreographed by Deepa Ganesh, Shashwat explores the Eternal Beauty through the evocative poetry of bards drawn from across different time periods and a variety of languages. One realizes that across the eons of time the one thing that is constant is Supreme Beauty and Truth. The music was recorded specially for this program by a team of senior artistes in a professional studio. Deepa premiered this production in Dubai for two main reasons. First, to showcase the depth of talent available locally and second, to offer an opportunity for local artistes to gain experience in a professional production. All the members of the group are talented local Bharatanatyam artistes, drawn from across different schools, backgrounds and gurus.  

“Over the past few years, I have been officiating as a judge for various cultural competitions, and was impressed with the talent here. At the same time, I realized that most of the youngsters did not have exposure to traditional, full-length productions. This is what prompted me to do a dance ballet last year. I didn’t want this to be a one-shot affair, and wanted to tell the UAE audience that it is possible to consistently achieve high standards of excellence with local artistes. Hard work is the key!! This spurred me to do this second production,” says Deepa. 

The build-up was keen and intense. Endless rehearsals, often till late night, drilled the participants to perfection. Deepa was forever ferreting out the finer points in a never-say-die effort. Invitations had gone out to large numbers of connoisseurs. With four captivating advertisements in Khaleej Times, we were expecting a large audience. There was coverage in the press before the event. The participants and their parents were keyed to a feverish pitch, as the final day dawned. 

As the evening began, the audience started streaming in, and the program began on the dot at 6:45 pm, the venerable Sheikh Rashid Auditorium was full, with a total estimated more than 1000 people! R.Shankar, the compere, commenced with a stirring, evocative speech. The curtains rose, to reveal a group of young girls who sweetly rendered the invocatory songs of dhyanam- Krishna Ashtakam. Then the dance ballet got underway. 

It was two hours of non-stop, soul-stirring performance. The lyrics and music blended beautifully with the dancers. Baby Krishna captivated the audience with his frolic. As a boy, his awe inspiring dance on the venomous Kaalinga, contrasted with His play with the gopis. Emotions cascaded across the stage. The thillana provided a magnificent counter point to the soul stirring pathos of the estranged Radha. The lighting beautifully blended with the dance and the stage glittered with the myriad costumes. Spontaneous applause punctuated the entire program. Scene after scene was enacted in a beautiful flow, like diamonds strung together in a necklace... 

Deepa ended the program thanking all the sponsors. Mr. K Kumar presented mementos to all the artistes and rest of the team. After the program, we received ecstatic feedback from the audience. Deepa was also deluged with calls the next day.  

“Young Krishna was captivating and so real.” 

“The program was flawless, from start to end. I have not seen a program like this in Dubai” 

“Let me congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. The fact that our local children have performed this makes me proud” 

“Were the artistes on stage, school children from Dubai? I am amazed. I thought this was a top notch troupe from India” 

The main sponsors for this program were Standard Chartered Bank, Petrochem Middle East. Other sponsors were Apollo Studios, DHL World Wide Express, Khaleej Times Abba Electronics, Mithaas and Abba Travels.