Dance based on Tagore’s Poetry
Bharatanatyam virtuoso Piyali Biswas choreographed “Prakritim Paramam,” an exquisite rendition of natural beauty and the formless power of God, based on the poetry of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
This performance took place on November 6 at Kirkland Performance Center, WA.
Onstage, Biswas portrayed the lyrics from poems that describe an enduring love of nature and humanity. She conveyed how various forms of artistic expression could represent Madhurya Bhava– when the individual is filled with love for the Divine, illustrating the concept of one world with one purpose, becoming one with the Divine.
Its relevance to modern times, said Biswas, is that people still search curiously for the meaning of life in ancient Indian texts.
“Indian classical dances will always stand strong even in the modern world and be enjoyed anywhere in the world. Values of life are eternal, like the sun shining on us. As long as the light is alive, the universal messages of love and compassion will be alive.”
Dhrupad Jhankar 2022
This year Biswas and her young students took their audience back to ancient times in Prakritim Paramam, a curated thematic Bharatnatyam recital produced exclusively for Dhrupad Jhankaar 2022.
Over 70 students staged mesmerizing performances that began with Pushpanjali, a pure, traditional, invocatory classical piece presented by talented ten-year-old students, that was followed by Natesha Kavuthuvam (hymn).
Older students flawlessly delivered the complicated “Thodaya Mangalam,” a composition by saints praising Gods. It featured multiple ragas and talas – quite impressive when busy adults take the time to learn a classical number of such caliber.
Kirtans, Poetry & Music
Dance Tantra students performed the pretty “Bhagyada Laksmi,” a famous kirtan by Purandara Dasa, inviting Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth, fortune, and abundance) into his home with reverential, enthralling poetry.
The audience enthusiastically cheered the entertaining, Carnatic style “Doe a deer,” by young dancers in their very first classical performance.
I was amazed by their expression and precision, especially in “Batapi Ganapatim,” a Sanskrit Kriti song by South Indian poet-composer Muthuswami Dikshitar which praises the bountiful elephant-headed God Ganesha, creator of the universe and its elements, and the remover of obstacles.
Mahaganapatim, composed by Muttuswaamee Dikshitar, added to the evening’s richness. Another highlight was the unique Jyothiswaram, a pure dance devoid of abhinaya (emotions), with its intricate sequences fused with repetitive musical notes. The complex compilation of adavus (steps and mudras) executed with layered melody, created a powerful unison of theme and movement. Jyothiswara is a beautiful Sanskrit ode to Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge, art, and music, by Puliyoor Shree Duraiswaami Aiyyar.
Biswas’ guru Priyadarshini Govind choreographed the mesmerizing Nava Rasa, featuring nine emotions that are essential concepts for expression in Dance. They include Shringara (love), Hasya (laughter), Karunya (sorrow), Rudra (anger), Veera (heroism), Bhayanaka (terror), Bibhatsa (disgust), Adbutha (wonder), and Shantha (peace).
The student showcase highlighted Tonoya, by a 2023 arangetram aspirant who displayed fierce footwork and incredible rhythm sense, as well as a preview of her Ravan tandava with unique music is created for her. The showcase concluded with Thillana, which requires perfect rhythm, timing, and synchronization skills to radiate performance and charm.
Annual Seattle Highlight
Dance Tantra‘s annual recitals have captivated Seattle audiences for almost a decade. Local council members Carmen Rivera and Rituja Indrapure attended the 2022 Dhrupad Jhankar event which also featured guest performers, Roosha Mandal and Kathak exponent Antara Datta.
Biswas believes art has no boundaries and is an excellent tool for promoting equity. Funds from Dhrupad Jhankaar support Sadhana, a nonprofit Biswas launched in 2019 to sponsor struggling marginal artists in India, offer a platform for young talent, and invest in experimental, contemporary, Indian classical productions.
Biswas plans to bring renowned classical artist Sonal Man Singh to conduct an expression-related dance workshop in Seattle. She also envisions art workshops – “art2elevate’ – for distressed youth, seniors, incarcerated children, and foster homes.
“I don’t think art can be compartmentalized as belonging to a particular community, country, or region,” said Biswas. “Art helps you to connect with the soul. Many a time, different cultures and styles have connected deeply with my art. It is universal because it transcends all boundaries.”