I penned a thoughtful article on BLM to celebrate Feb as Black History Month. This is an honest attempt to contribute through Indian Classical dance to the movement. Many asked me to write about this for a long time. February is the ideal time.
We need to understand Black history, and learning more about systemic racism is essential as our country faces backlash to civil rights activists such as the George Floyd protests. We should know Black History Month and how to celebrate it appropriately. The second week of February coincides with Frederick Douglass’s birthdays, a famed abolitionist who escaped from slavery, and President Abraham Lincoln, who formally abolished slavery. Feb. 1 is National Freedom Day, the anniversary of the approval of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865. Richard Wright, who was enslaved and became a civil rights advocate and author, lobbied for the day’s celebration.
Young African Americans and all young adults of all colors need to understand and be proud of the heritage and history. The outpouring of support, particularly from white Americans and brown Indians, and all colors, for the Black Lives Matter movement during the nationwide racial justice protests in the wake of Floyd’s death, was a positive step toward recognizing more enduring structural racism forms. Racism is baked into the American system in many ways.
As we know, the world changed after Derek Chauvin put his knees on George Floyd’s neck for 8 mins and 46 seconds. Our collective conscience about the injustice of policing was shaken to the core. But this was not the first in the struggle against police brutality. A century-long journey, through the days of slave patrols, segregation during Jim Crow’s south, civil rights movements, through the beatings of Rodney King, the killing of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, the struggle and the protest goes on. Taking a critical look at South Asians in this movement, mostly Indians, we can do more to stand with the oppressed black communities and the racist American state.
Piyali is a Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher in Seattle foregrounds, collaborating with talentedJasmine Forrest, BFA (Contemporary Dance, Boston Conservatory @ Berklee). Jasmine has a long ongoing history of struggle as a Black ballerina and Contemporary Dancer in the professional world. The renaissance of Indian Classical Dance itself is an outcome of white colonial supremacy and upper-caste demand to be a custodian of “Indian Culture”. White supremacy in contemporary and ballet became standard in the western world.
This is an honest, collaborative attempt to support BLM through art. In this video mix of Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance and music collage, we wanted to portray the movement’s long history against police brutality. Dr. King said, the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” But we ask, how long would it be before justice prevails? When enough is enough?
Piyali Biswas De
Sadhana is a 501-(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2019 based in Seattle WA, USA. It aims to explore and highlight ways in which various art-forms can be used to create social campaigns and awareness, to explore and highlight issues that impact everyone, and explore a common thread across diverse cultural forms around the globe. Art is truly a global language; it speaks to our need to express, reveal, heal, and transform. Sadhana aims to nurture and promote arts such as Dance, Music, Theatre, Photography, Creative Writing, Painting, and Fashion to highlight and educate about issues relevant to all of us.
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Guru Smt. Vinitha Subramanian, the Director of Natyalaya School of Dance in Austin, has been teaching in the Central Texas area for over 35 years. She has scores of arangetrams to her credit and has staged several dance dramas and thematic presentations such as Jungle Book – Seonee, Ganga- A River’s story, Nouka Charitram, Navahavarna, Roopa Viroopa, Ek, and Agasthya, just to name a few. I interview Vinitha Subramanian, in what was a fabulous exploration into the connections between Indian poetry and classical dance.
UA: Bharatanatyam is performed to the accompaniment of poetry in Sanskrit and other South Indian languages. Can you trace the relationship between the two genres historically?
VS: Sanskrit was the preeminent literary language in India for many centuries. The poets and playwrights wrote in Sanskrit in the various courts of India’s rulers. In addition, poets also wrote in local languages: example Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamizh. There has been a profusion of composers in local languages in more recent times as the support for artists moved away from the Kingly courts. Tamizh poetry is very old, dating up to 4000 years.
UA: Who/What are these classical poetry forms that are foundational to the practice of Bharatanatyam?
VS: There are so many forms – starting from very old Tamil poetry which are over 3-4000 years old.
Sangam Literature and poetry:contains 2381 poems in Tamil composed by 473 poets, some 102 anonymous, of these Kapilar is the most prolific poet. These poems vary between 3 and 782 lines long. The bardic poetry of the Sangam era is largely about love (akam) and war (puram), with the exception of the shorter poems such as in paripaatal, which is more religious and praises Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and Murugan. The most acceptable time range for the Sangam literature is 100 BCE to 250 CE
The history of Tamil literature follows the history of Tamil Nadu, closely following the social, political and cultural trends of various periods. The early Sangam literature, dated before 300 BCE, contain anthologies of various poets dealing with many aspects of life, including love, war, social values and religion. This was followed by the early epics and moral literature, authored by Hindu, Jain and Buddhist authors, lasting up to the 5th century CE. From the 6th to 12th century CE, the Tamil devotional poems written by Nayanmars (sages of Shaivism) and Alvars (sages of Vaishnavism), heralded the great Bhakti movement which later engulfed the entire Indian subcontinent. It is during this era that some of the grandest of Tamil literary classics like Kambaramayanam (very famous poet Kamban) and Periya Puranam (lives of the 63 saiva saints complied by Sekkizhar) were authored and many poets were patronized by the imperial Chola and Pandya empires. The later medieval period saw many assorted minor literary works and also contributions by a few Muslim and European authors.
In modern Bharatanatyam, it is hard to use Sangam poetry (though we use some selected verses), as it is very hard to understand the ancient language.
We do use Christian poems in Bharatanatyam – several poets in Kerala (including a priest) have written songs for Bharatanatyam.
Generally medieval Tamil and Sanskrit poetry is extensively used:Poets like Kalidasa and Adi Shankara from (1st– 2nd centuries), Andal and Alwars (5th-10th century), Kannada Dasa poets like Purandaradasa (15-17 century), Annamayya and Telugu poets( 12th century- 20th century), Sanskrit poets like Jayadeva (12th century) Most modern Bharatanatyam songs are, however, derived from compositions of relatively modern composers like the Carnatic Trinity (Tyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Sama Trinity) and the Tanjore Quartet (Chinnaswamy, Ponniah, Vadivelu and Sadanandam) considered the fathers of modern Bharatanatyam. Other popular modern composers include Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi, Papanasam Sivan, Poochi Sreenivasa Iyengar, Ravikiran. These poets composed in a variety of south Indian languages. With Bharatanatyam spilling beyond south India, poetry in many North Indian languages are also being used: Hindi (Tulsidas, Kabir), Marathi (Tukaram and other Abhang composers), Gujrati, Bengali (Rabindranath Tagore).
UA: Mostly, what are the kinds of poetry and poetry forms used in poetry accompanying classical Bharatanatyam?
VS: Poetry had religious and devotional themes, and romantic-mystical poetry was prevalent as it was felt that people would comprehend the texts better. Independence-based themes, social reform-based poetry, religious tolerance and moral teachings emerged over time. Indian poetry is generally classified in accordance to the language in which it is written, or the region from which it hails. However, in general, Indian poetry is generally classified into the following types: epics, couplets (dohas), ghazals, bhajans, folk poetry and others.
UA: Indian music and dance is based on raga, bhava and tala. Please help us understand each of the terms with a special emphasis on tala.
VS: Bhava – Facial expressions that help in storytelling. Raga – Melody to which dance-song is set. Tala – The intrinsic beat of the poem as reflected in the music which is set to the measures defined in Carnatic music.
UA: What are the dominant stanzaic forms and meter used in the poetry?
VS: In terms of meter – 2 line poems (haiku like) called Dohas/Shairis are popular, such as those by Kabir. This is also found in Thirukkural, an anthology in Tamil by Tiruvalluvar. Examples of other meters used are Gayathri meter poems from the Vedic literature, the octet poems of Jayadeva and Adi Shankara, longer sonnets are very popular among older and modern poets and have all found a home in bharatanatyam.
Sanskrit prosody or Chandas (meter) is the study of poetic meters and verse in Sanskrit. This field of study was central to the composition of the Vedas. The Chandas, as developed by the Vedic schools, were organized around seven major meters, and each had its own rhythm, movements and aesthetics. Sanskrit meters include those based on a fixed number of syllables per verse, and those based on fixed number of morae per verses as expounded in Pingala’s Chandasutra.
UA: Nattuvangam- it’s practice, definition and importance to classical dance?
VS: Nattuvangam (pertaining to dance) and Konnakol (pertaining to vocal- instrumental music) is the practice of reciting rhythmic syllables that emulate the drumbeats that allow the elaboration of the inherent beat of the music in various permutations to display the dancers virtuosity in pure dance movements.
UA: The relationship between nattuvangam and beats in classical Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit poetry?
VS: When a poem is set to music, its inherent meter (determined by the poet) is interpreted in the structure of the Carnatic music tala structure. This Tala is elaborated in the nattuvangam, providing opportunity to the dancer to explore various ways of presenting it. The basic tala measure is combined in various permutations and combinations to provide a rich diversity of pure dance movements and footwork.
UA: What are some of the more modern poetic expressions to which you composed your own choreography successfully (that are not strictly laid out in meter, yet were transferred beautifully)?
VS: The rigidity is only in the time measure of each avartana of the tala (8 beats, 11 beats etc.) in which each line of the song /poem fits. By calculating the number of beats in one avartana or combining the avartanas or splitting them we are able to derive infinite combinations of footwork arrangement. The same song with the same rhythm (drum) can be arranged very differently by different choreographers using the hand gestures (hastas and Nrtta hastas) and adavus (choreographed steps) to provide a refreshing look at the inherent meter of the poem every time. Hence every song can be renewed each time it is performed.
We have set Bharatanatyam movements to songs from various faiths, composed in different languages, even English/western music or Tejano music. When there is no meter but just a song or chorus without beat, Bharatanatyam allows its expression in graceful twirls and striking poses.
Why I Dance – A monthly column, in collaboration with IndianRaga, in which we uncover the variety of Indian Classical Dance forms and their lineage.
This first edition of the Why I Dance Column features Sattriya, an Indian Classical dance form originating in the state of Assam.
Originally developed by the great seer-polymath Shrimanta Shankardev, the art form is based on the Bhagvat and takes its roots in neo-Vaishnavism. As a means of social reform, Shankardev aimed to use Sattriya to meet the goal of cleansing the society of caste and creed hierarchy. Shankardev also used this artistic medium for the propagation of the philosophy called Eka-Sharan-Naam-Dharma (the religion of taking refuge in the name of the only One). Sattriya dances and dramas that are based on the works of Shankardev and his disciple Madhavdev are performed by groups of dancers and actors in a Prayer Hall called “Naamghar”.
To Prateesha Suresh, Sattriya dance has meant everything. Trained in both Sattriya and Bharatanatyam, she has been instrumental in the recognition of Sattriya as a classical dance of India, which it was declared as by the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2000. She notes that: “I learnt Bharatanatyam and took up Sattriya (which I learnt as a child) as it belonged to my state and at that point, we were trying to establish its classical status. I performed a lot with lecture-demonstrations for that cause. Today, although Sattriya has gained its classical status, there is a lot of work yet to be done.”
She continues to inspire Sattriya practitioners around the world through her choreographies and lecture-demonstrations, where she breaks down the artform for those unfamiliar. About Sattriya, Prateesha says, “It has many layers to it like a “Shastra” and I am trying to unfold those layers every day of my life!”
Sattriya is a lived tradition, having been practised continuously since its inception by men in institutes called Sattras. In the 1970s, Sattriya emerged from the Sattras, against the wishes of many. Dances in the Sattriya repertoire are based on the Sutradhari Dance, among others created by Shankardev, as a part of the drama called Ankiya Nat.
Dances in the Sattriya repertoire are divided into three sections; Ramdani, Geetor Naach, and Mela Naach, which refer to the ‘the beginning’, ‘the middle’, which is the dance accompanied to a song, and ‘the conclusion’.
The percussion used in Sattriya is called a Khol, and does not follow the same jati system used by many other classical dance forms. Because of this, the changes in tempo are done gradually and are not calculated (which is how the jati system works).
The basic posture of the art form is the half-sitting “mandala” posture called Ora. In Sattriya, the body moves in undulation and the arms are always bent at the elbows and follow a circular path. The torso is held in samabhanga, dvibhanga and tribhanga positions mostly bending forward or side to side. Acrobatic movements like bending back and touching the ground, and either standing or sitting on the knees are also seen in the art form. The fingers of the palm use all the “hasta karana-s” as mentioned in the Natyashastra.
The costuming in the Purush (male) style is Krishna’s attire. It consists of a yellow coloured dhoti, dark blue coloured upper-garment in the angarakha style called “chapkon”, richly embroidered waist girdle with hanging pearls called “kanchi” either in dark blue or black colour and a black or dark blue embroidered crown over the head.
The costume of the Prakriti (female) style is a plain white skirt, two panels over each shoulder with patterns which join in a “V” at the back, like the Sutradhari. Dark blue or black coloured blouse with rich embroidery. A long piece of cloth tied at the waist, ends hanging in the front called “tongali”. A richly embroidered waistband with two panels hanging from either side called “aachol”.
Sutradhari costume has both the elements of ‘Purush’ and ‘Prakriti’, where the dancer wears a white skirt, two panels over the shoulders joined at the back in a ‘v’, a long piece of cloth tied at the waist, the ends hanging in the front called ‘tongali’ and a white head adornment which is in the shape of a “kosha”. Traditional Assamese jewellery like “unti” (earings), “muthi kharu”, “gaam kharu” (bracelets), “mota moni”, “dugdugi”, “gejera/junbiri” for the neck are worn. Light dancing bells called “junuka” are worn on the feet.
The Why I Dance Campaign is a collaboration between Maryland based Kuchipudi company Kalanidhi Dance, and IndianRaga. IndianRaga provides a platform for aspiring artists to explore their talent, with opportunities to focus on presentation and performance, high-quality audio and video production for digital channels, and learn how to collaborate with fellow artists.
Tune in next month to learn more about the Indian Classical Artform of Odissi!
Tarini Kumar is an IndianRaga Bharatanatyam Fellow and Why I Dance team member. She is a disciple of Smt. Divyaa Unni, and currently studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Virtual Bharat’s most recent film is set in Koolimuttam, Kerala. A story of a man, a rebel, a master, known to his disciples and thus to the world, by one name; “Manu Master,” he says with pride as he looks at the nature around him. His eyes are kind and filled with strength and wisdom. His red shawl flutters in the wind.
Manu Master was born in Koolimuttam, in the 1960s, as Abdul Manaf. Little Abdul loved the arts. He accompanied his uncle to Kathakali recitals, performances and katcheris alike. He jumped across the compound wall at school every day to simply watch and admire the dance lessons that were being taken by a teacher right next door. Spotting his interest in the arts, his uncle enrolled him to learn bharatanatyam when he was only 12 years of age, and that marked the beginning of Abdul Manaf’s journey in Bharatanatyam.
Bharatanatyam was considered a temple art form. The postures and grace of the dance are a reflection of those of several Hindu gods and goddesses. Abdul Manaf was not a part of this culture, and was thus regarded an outsider. He trained in several other dance forms – Mohiniyattam, Kathakali…but his heart always lay with Bharatanatyam. At the age of 20, he decided to move to Tamil Nadu to train and master the traditional style of Bharatanatyam – one that had been banned by the British, in their move to stamp out Indian culture. Today, he is one of the leading exponents of this style of dance.
Abdul believes that “the true God, is love, and art is the medium to reach love. “Mohabbat,” he says, is what his dance is an expression of. He refused to allow aspects like his name to get in the way of his love for dance. Abdul Manaf took the name ‘Manu’, a nickname given to him by his mother, and started to practice under this name. He admired the Tantric school of the dance and says it was his Guru Chitra Visweswaran who changed his life. She showed him how the body, was but a small replica of the entire universe, and thus how through certain postures one could unveil the Maha Mantras (sacred truths of the world).
His movements echo the simplicity, grace, and freedom of postures of love and desire – characteristic of the Tantric school of Bharatanatyam. His audience is spellbound when he moves. The very air around him changes. There is a silence and magic to his performance and even the simplest of mudras can bring tears to the spectator’s eyes. Manu today, dedicates his life to not only keeping this Tantric tradition of Bharatanatyam alive, but to his disciples as well. He looks at them with a smile, and says “my teachers have always shown me the right path, but I want them to be able to choose their own paths.”
As the team of Virtual Bharat shot with Manu Master, they were spellbound by not only his movements but the way these movements echoed the beauty of the nature around him. Watch the film capture his story through his dance below!
Virtual Bharat in collaboration with India Currents will release a monthly series highlighting the stories Virtual Bharat is capturing in India. Stay tuned for more!
Virtual Bharatis a 1000 film journey of untold stories of India spanning people, landscapes, literature, folklore, dance, music, traditions, architecture, and more in a repository of culture. The vision of director Bharatbala, creator of Maa Tujhe Salaam, we are a tale of India told person-by-person, story-by-story, and experience-by-experience. The films are under 10 minutes in length and are currently available on Virtual Bharat’s Youtube Channel.
Core strength and flawless posture mark the ladies stepping out of Arathi School of Dance in Dallas, Texas. The students, some who have been at the school for most of its thirty-nine years, carry the poise and gentleness of its founder Smt. Revathi Satyu. Revathi who as a young girl has performed before the Maharaja of Mysore, Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi and President Shri V.V.Giri among other dignitaries, has in her lifetime gently floated from one accolade to another for her service to the art of dance.
It was in 1980, when there was no other dance academy in the state, art connoisseurs came together to enjoy and encourage the art form under her leadership. Herself a young lady with small children Revathi nevertheles forged forward with her dream to pass on the art to the next generation of children to grow up in the US. “When our children were young,” said Dr. Neil Satyu, “she would teach only on weekends, but increased the lessons to three to four days a week when the children were older. She would drive an hour each way from our home to teach dance in Dallas, and fly to San Antonio once a month to teach there.”
When the school started, the classes were held in a recreation center, then they were moved to a church community hall, soon they were subleasing ballet studios. “When the Hindu Temple build classrooms, she began to teach at the temple,” said her husband, Dr. Neil Satyu.
“She was the first to start a Bharatanatyam dance school here in Dallas forty years ago. It took guts, grit, and a strong resolve to do this at a time when there were not very many Indians in the area and she had to travel hours to get to the students. Dance school became a place where friendships developed, a place where the children of those who left India could be exposed to the rich culture of their heritage; a community grew. The school not only helped the students attending it but it helped the parents of the students make connections and relationships that are ongoing even today,” said Anu Sury, who has been her student since the age of twelve and now teaches in the school.
Arpana Satyu Burge, her daughter, remembers that there was always someone coming over to practice for a show or arangetram. They always had one or two dance sisters attached to the family. “Raising the two of us in the sticks of East Texas, in a town where she knew nobody could not have been easy, but she did it. She met people, she made friends, she found students, she handled the household. She raised two kids (who turned out pretty okay) but created many more dancers.”
Revathi and her team later took on the task of taking the dance to non-Indian audiences and to educate the people at large. Suma Kulkarni joined forces to take Smt. Revathi Satyu’s vision for the Arathi School of Dance forward. They created the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, non-profit organization whose vision is to promote intercultural awareness by providng a platform for the interaction between Indian and American cultures through workshops, presentations and performances. ” Prabha (Suma) Aunty and Revathi Aunty have conceptualized, started, and managed ICHF for the past 25 years. Through this organization, Dallas has benefited immensely with outstanding artists being presented here,” said Anu Sury.
Modest about her achievements Smt. Revathi Satyu is not one to boast. She often refers to dance as a good hobby. But the depth of her commitment is evident when her students talk about her in reverential tones
Alpana Kagal Jacob, her student of 38 years remembers being mesmerized by her performance at just ten years of age and demanding her parents enroll her in her school of dance.“ I was 10 years old and our family had recently moved to Denton, Texas. I remember watching aunty perform a few Bharatanatyam items and specifically a Mohiniyattam item. I was instantly mesmerized by her grace and connected with her through her striking glances that seemed to not allow the audience to look away. It was magical. I remember telling my mother that I would like to start dance classes with Revathi aunty. We really didn’t understand what a treasure we had right in front of our eyes. Aunty sacrificed so much for us and for this amazing art form. I remember days when she would have one of her young daughters holding on to her feet as she patiently continued to teach us. When I think back to those simple days I can’t help to feel such gratitude for growing up in a world that was so simple and having the opportunity to learn from this simple yet complex woman.”
“I am always thankful for ALL that she does, and especially, for all that she is,” said Shalini Varghese Chandragiri who has been her student since the age of five and now teaches at Arathi School of Dance. “She teaches by example how to submit to the higher power without ever letting ego get in the way.”
“It is believed that in life, every person’s destiny is bound to another person. Revathi aunty came into my life twenty-one years ago when I moved from India to Dallas, to pursue my doctoral program. Dance was always my first love. My dear Revathi aunty, and the Arathi School family that she built further enhanced this love. I still vividly remember that Saturday afternoon at the Irving temple when I laid my eyes on this exquisite and gorgeous aunty. She and her senior students were getting ready for a performance. When I approached her, she welcomed me with open arms in her quiet and sweet manner. This journey of dance has been more than just dance to me. This has been a journey of love, patience, compassion, and self-discovery, all thanks to Revathi aunty. She is my Guru, when I need direction, my dance mom when I need advice and a friend when I need to share my smiles and tears, and even when I need to share a cup of hot tea with a good book to read,” says Sarita Venkatraman her student, now herself a teacher at Arathi School of Dance.
“When I was older, I moved away and realized that not all dance teachers are like Revathi Aunty. She is a rarity in that she is open to collaboration, with never an unkind word about anyone. I love being a teacher for Arathi School of Dance. It is because of Revathi Aunty’s unwavering dedication to teaching Bharatanatyam that our school has such a strong foundation and remains the most established school of Bharatanatyam in the entire state of Texas”, said Shilpi S. Mehta her student and a teacher herself.
” I too have had the opportunity to see other dance schools run by other teachers in America. I haven’t found one that has created the kind of dance culture Revathi aunty has. She builds relationships with other dancers and teachers rather than seeing them as competition. She nurtures relationships with many different musicians through mutual respect,” said Latha Shrivatsa. “She had the strength in character to invite other prominent dancers to conduct workshops at a time when other dancer teachers were not doing this, so that we might be exposed to other styles rather than claim her students as her own territory. She encourages her own dancers to keep striving, to explore directions beyond where she has,” said Latha
As the President of the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Revathi Satyu continues to promote and encourage other dance, music and art connoisseurs around the world. She is a true athlete of the art. The dance studio spends a great deal of time and energy in connecting the ancient traditions with the ideas and stories of the present and the future. “She’d dance in the kitchen while we were at school, choreograph in her head while listening to music in the carpool line, and drag us to hours upon hours of dance lessons on weekends, because that was her happy place,” her daughter Arpana said.
Revathi has been the choreographer and artistic director for a number of dance dramas, raising funds for deserving causes. Every performance by the school encapsulates in the performance a message or story the students can relate to. Powerful stories for instance of different aspects of the mother; Jiva or the art of protecting the environment or our roots are conveyed using abhinaya and nritta or rhythmic footwork, geometric movement, codified hand gestures, and facial expressions. The performers with technical virtuosity express devotion to the deities and their cultural tradition. They share their knowledge of the different facets of Indian deities and mythological stories with their non-Indian audiences.
Revathi Satyu’s dance journey began in India where she reached great heights. Illustrious gurus, U.S. Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi, Pandanallur Muthiah Pillai, Tanjore K.P. Kittappa Pillai and Mysore Venkatalakshamma, shaped her into a worldclass Bharatnatyam dancer and stage actress in India where she performed for a decade 1965-1974. Revathi Satyu is a sought after Bharatanatyam dancer. Karnataka Kalashri, Bharata Kala Rathna, Sangita Sambrahma and recently winner of the Mary McLarry Lifetime Achiement Award from the Dance Council of North Texas her outstanding contribution in the field of classical dance has been awarded many times.
Earlier this year she was endowed with the prestigious title of “Nritya Darshini” by Kalaimamani Smt. Priyadarsini Govind. Additionally Revathi Satyu is being honored by Saptami Foundation, with the title of ‘Natya Chinthamani’ on November 23rd, 2019. The Nirtya Darshni award recognized her as an outstanding dancer and guru.
Dance flows through her and this teller of ancient and modern stories steals your heart with a fluidity of motion and a flash of her expressive eyes. As Arpana her daughter says, “As perennial as a rose, so is my mom–she stretches further and blooms brighter as the years go on.”
Dashavtar, a spectacular dance drama, by the Shankara Dance Academy will showcase the ten reincarnations of Vishnu and bring it to life with a cast of 58 local artists.
This lavish show promises to light up the stage with colorful lighting, specialized backdrops, customised music, costumes, props, special effects. Arti Manek, in conjunction with her Guru Abhay Shankar Misra, has had presented several sold out shows in the past, including Nari Tu Narayani, Gopala Krishna Kanhaiya, Ram Charit Manas and more.
Dashavtar was presented in London, UK, recently where Arti was also a performer. Now she is recreating the same show with her local students, who have the opportunity of being a part of this class act. The high caliber production promises to be a visual delight.
Dashavtar tells the story of the ten re-incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Commonly accepted as the God of Preservation, Lord Vishnu is among the three principal Gods in the Hindu religion. It is believed that Lord Vishnu came to Earth from time to time in a different form (avatar) to eradicate the evil forces in place and restore cosmic order.
The ten avatars of Vishnu are: Matsya (Fish), Kurma (Tortoise), Varah (Boar), Narasimha (Lion / Man ), Vaman (Dwarf), King Bali, Parshuram, Sri Ram, Balrama, Buddha, Kalki. Each of these will be presented separately followed by a finale including all the avatars together.
The ten avatars of Lord Vishnu will be brought to life in the classical dance form of Kathak (story telling). “The wondrous displays of hand gestures, colorful costumes, intricate footwork, and graceful movements will charm and captivate the audience and bring them closer to the Gods,” say the organizers.
In Dashavtar the theme music is set in Kaharwa Taal in different ragas. The interlude pieces are set in ten different taals for a very creative effect.
Arti Manek is known in the Los Angeles area for her exceptional talents in bringing amateurs on to stage and lighting them up to be embraced as professionals. Pujya Morari Bapu, world renowned Ramayana discourse orator, and Pandit Birju Maharaj (legendary kathak artist) have graced her shows.
Dashavtar promises to bring pride and joy to the local artists and to the public to witness how our ancient Indian culture flourishes so beautifully and artistically in the entertainment capital of the USA, Los Angeles!
This article was provided to India Currents by the Shankara Dance Academy.