Sydney Dance Festival ”“ A  reminder that all Indian dance is not just Bollywood



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By  Vish Viswanathan

“We artistes are like flowers. But Maduram Academy of Performing Arts did put us together like a beautiful garland through the Sydney Dance Festival” said Smt. Vidha Lal,   a world famous Kathak   exponent and the Guinness Book of World Records Holder for taking the most number of Kathak Spins (103) in one minute. “Sydney Dance festival made our day when we got a call from Madhuram Dance Acdemy inviting us to perform. It was a great opportunity though we have performed in other countries Australia was on our minds” said Abhimanyu Lal, her partner and an accomplished Kathak artiste. “Sydney Dance Festival sparked the need to remind people that Indian Dance isn’t all Bollywood” wrote Jill Sykes, the popular arts columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald in her review. The excellence of the Indian Classical Dances demonstrated that Sydney Dance Festival was not to be missed” said Shantha Viswanathan, a well-known member of the Sydney Indian community who attended the event first of its kind in Sydney.


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The Sydney Dance Festival spread over two days  April 19-20, 2014 held at the Seymore Centre included performances by nine world class dance artistes from India specialised in five styles such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchpudi, Kathak, Odissi, Sattriya and two professional dance groups from Sydney,   also happens to be the first of such initiatives and projects undertaken by Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts. “Our vision is double fold, to promote India’s rich cultural heritage in classical dances in the multicultural Australia and provide a platform for local and overseas dancers especially the younger generation to promote themselves and share their best talents” said Kalpana Sriram, Director, Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts launching the Dance Festival.

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The Sydney Dance Festival presented  for eight hours on each of the two days consisting of segments of group and solo performances. On the first day the Dance Festival was launched with an excellent Bharatanatyam presentation “Srishti” choreographed by the Sydney based dance Guru Smt. Hamsa Venkat trained from Kalakshetra in Chennai and performed by the students of her Samskriti School of Dance. In “Srishti” meaning ‘creation’, the young students from Samskriti beautifully presented five items “Bhoomanjali” (Earth), Ananda Tandavam (Space), “Surya Vandanam” (Fire), Jala Sthuthi (Water) and Tarana (Air) – a representation of basic elements of  creation. In particular Varnam number Surya Vandanam in praise of the Sun god Surya that  lights the entire universe and is the source of all life captivated the audience.

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This was followed by a superb Kuchipudi dance recital for over an hour by the very talented artiste from India, Prateeksha Kashi, disciple of her mother and guru Smt. Vyjayanthi Kashi, a celebrated performer and choreographer. Prateeksha Kashi presented seven delightful Kuchipudi numbers “Vande Vande” (salutation to Goddess Saraswati), “Dashavatara Shabdam” (highlighting the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu), “Satyabhama” (entrance of Satyabhama in Kuchipudi art), Shankara Srigari, “ Javali”, “Tarangam” and “ Thillana”.   Prateeksha Kashi received standing ovation from the audience for the abhinaya displayed in the Javali number and the special feature of dancing on the rim of the dance plate in the Tarangam number.   “I have specially chosen these dance items highlighting four core principles of the Kuchipudi Art for the Australian audience” said Prateeksha Kashi adding “Abhinaya and Divinity are very important aspects”. Prateeksha Kashi an empaneled artiste by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations started her dancing career at the tender age of five, won many awards and performed in many countries. Prateeksha Kashi strongly recommended application of classical mythology and its relevance in the modern world which would appeal to the younger generation to learn classical dances of India.

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Another equally talented Bharatanatyam artiste from India, Smt. Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya mesmerised the audience with superb performance combined with divinity. Smt. Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya presented six Bharatanatyam items “Pusphanjali”, “Ananada Nartana Ganapatim”, “Anjaneya Raghu Rama Dootha” “Viruttam” and Thaye Yashoda” , “Pyare Darshan” and “Madhurashtakam”. Smt. Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya’s excellent portrayal of the Hanuman God with divinity in the Anjaneya Raghu Rama Dootha’ number was very much applauded by the audience. “you have to visualise the Lord” said Smt. Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya revealing the secret formula to present the divinity in the character  such as Anjaneya. Smt.  Athreya is a disciple of Padmashree Smt. Chitra Visweswaran and performed in leading Sabhas in India such as Music Academy, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan as well as several concert tours in many countries. Smt. Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya said “I owe my success to my guru Smt. Chitra Visweswaran who is a wonderful guru allowing the students to be imaginative, innovative and at the same time ensuring them to perform in line with the theme” stated Smt. Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya. “I received a fantastic energy from the knowledgeable audience which encouraged me to offer my best performance”    she said of    the appreciative Sydney audience .

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Another highlight of the evening was the special presentation of the “Sattriya” unique dance item from the Indian State of Assam by accomplished, finest and outstanding exponents from India Smt. Anita Sharma and Naren Baruah. The inception of the Sattriya dance dates itself back to the 15th century, and this dance form is approximately 500 years old. Unlike some other classical dances intrinsic to Assamese culture which have undergone several innovations in terms of technique and style, the Sattriya dance has been left untouched in this regard and has been the same since its birth. In India the Sattriya dance was formally recognised in the year 2000 only. Together the world renowned artistes Smt. Anita Sharma and Naren Baruah performed nine “ Sattriya “ dance numbers “ Nandi” “ Jumura Nac”, Utho Mera Laal”, “Nadu Bhangi” “Ram Vandana”, “Kaliyo Damon”, “Dasa Vatar”, “Raja Ghariya Chali” and “Buji Bhansa Puran”.

“Presenting Sattriya Dance in Australia was a unique experience thanks to Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts” stated Smt. Anita Sharma who has performed in many countries.   “A  a day time lecture demonstration would be helpful to dance students,” suggested Naren Boruah.

The evening of the first day of the Sydney Dance Festival was concluded with a beautiful Odissi performance by the internationally acclaimed Nrityagram School trained and very renowned artiste from India, Ayona Bhaduri. Five Odissi items choreographed by the world famous Oddissi Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra “Mangalacharan”, “Pallavi”, two types of “Abhinaya” and “Moksh” were presented by Ayona Bhaduri. Ayona Bhaduri trained by Brijayini Satpathy and Sarupa Sen at the Nityagram, incorporated the nuances and styles of the Odissi gurus Pankaj Charan Das and Debapriya Das in her presentation at the Sydney Dance Festival.  “Australian audience were excellent fans of Odissi and extremely receptive” said Ayona Bhaduri. “ Today’s younger generation is very sharp and much more intelligent. The dance teachers need to take advantage of these factors” stated Ayona Bhaduri. “ I really appreciated their staying long hours over the Easter public holidays to watch our  performances, ”   beamed Ayona Bhaduri.

On the second day,the Dance festival continued, another Sydney based Kuchipudi talent Smt. Aruna Iyengar and students of Shakthi School of Dance delighted the audience with outstanding Kuchipudi dance numbers. Smt. Aruna Iyengar  trained under Smt. Padma Menon in Canberra who was a disciple of Padmabhushan guru Vempatti Chinna Satyam, the doyen of the Kuchipudi dance art.   Six Kuchipudi dance items including “Adi Kondar’, “Tharangam”, “ Yarro Endre Ennamale” , “ Nalla Sagunam nokki” and “ Mahishasura Mardhini” were delightfully presented by Smt. Aruna Iyengar and the students of Shakthi School of Dance. Special mention needs to be made for the excellent rendering of the “Mahishasura Mardhini” number which was well appreciated by the audience.

The next segment had a pleasant surprise blend of the Bharatanatyam styles from three famous gurus Adyar Lakshmanan, Leela Samson and Smt. Bragha Bessell presented by Sai Santosh Radhakrishnan, a young and high achiever from Chennai, India who delighted the audience with an electrifying effect. Sai Santosh Radhakrishnan presented the Bharatanatyam numbers “Sthuthi Pancha Ratnam” chorographed by Adyar Lakshmanan, “Shankara Srigiri” choreographed by Leela Samson,   “Maameeyam Ashapadi” choreographed by Smt. Bragha Bessell, “Thillana” and “Swadeshanjali” choreographed by   Padmashri Chitra Visveshwaran.

The uniqueness, swiftness and innovative styles combined with interactive dance steps in the numbers presented by Sai Santosh Radhakrishnan captivated the hearts of many classical dance lovers. “I was fortunate to work with many eminent artistes such as Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy, Padmashri Dr. Chitra Visweswaran,” stated Sai Santosh Radhakrishnan. “There is no discrimination between Nayaka or Nayaki characters. I focus on the character,” said Sai Santosh Radhakrishnan when queried about the different roles required in the dance items being a male artiste.  Sai Santosh Radhakrishnan was very appreciative of the Sydney audience and thrilled to meet the teacher of his guru Smt. Chitra Visweswaran during the event.

Then  followed a double treat of Kathak and Odissi items in the late afternoon and evening segments. Globally acknowledged Kathak exponents from India Smt. Vidha Lal and Sri Abhimanyu Lal not only thrilled the audience with their Kathak numbers but also involved the audience in participating with them and received standing ovation. While all the Kathak numbers presented by Smt. Vidha Lal and Sri Abhimanyu Lal were thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, the “Jugal Bandhi” and Kathak style rendering of the famous “ Bo Sambo” composed by the eminent sage Sri Dayanand Saraswati received repeated standing applauses. It was important to note that the music was especially composed for the Sydney Dance Festival by Smt. Vidha Lal and Sri Abhimanyu Lal.

Smt. Vidha Lal and Sri Abhimanyu Lal were very highly in praise of the Sydney audience. They further stated that the audience were “curious, excited and interacted positively,” they said.

The Sydney Dance Festival concluded with an outstanding Odissi performance recital by the excellent performer and world renowned artiste from India, Smt. Sujata Mohapatra disciple of Late Guru Padmavibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra, an Odissi doyen.   The audience were treated to four delightful Odissi numbers “Mangalacharan”, “Ramayana- Long”, “ Hamsadhwani Pallavi” and “ Mokshya” choreographed by Guru Ratikant Mahapatra and Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

“The focus of Maduram Academy of Performing Arts initiative Sydney Dance Festival is to promote Indian classical dances, their different forms & styles such as such as the Jaipur Gharana and cultural heritage to the younger generation in Australia. Due to overwhelming response received, we intend organising the Sydney Dance Festival every year around April promoting local and overseas talents for solo performances,” stated Dr. Divya Sriram, Director, summarising the future direction of   Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Jill Stykes summed it nicely by saying,  “let us hope that the  Sydney Dance Festival is  the first of many” .

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