Tag Archives: Performance

Nirtya Darshni, Natya Chinthamani Revathi Satyu Touches Many Lives

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.

Smt. Revathi Natyu with Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar of Mysore

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.”

 

Dr. Neil Satyu

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.”

Click to watch video

I Dance, Hence, I Am

Aug 25 Festival to Bring Immersive Experience to BharataNatyam Lovers.

On Sunday, August 25th, Bay Area will experience a whole day’s worth of BharataNatyam – Lec-dems, a panel discussion, expert talks, and of course, performances by visiting and US-based artists – at the IDIA event, a festival of BharataNatyam. I got a chance to catch up with the performers. (For more details on the whole program, visit: (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/idia-i-dance-hence-i-am-2019-tickets-64541376996)

Navia Natrajan

I asked Chennai-based Navia Natarajan who will perform in the evening, when it was that she first knew she wanted to dance; what was it that drew her in. She said, “Joy. That is what I remember about watching my first performance – and all others since, actually – the joy. How much the dancer enjoyed the dance. I always want to get into that space.” Indeed, her goal for her solo debut/ arangetram in her teens was not, perfect technique and not forgetting a step; but rather, to get to a point where she could feel the joy.

We get to experience her joy in a piece that was an exploratory journey for her mentor the revered Bragha Bessel too. Turns out, Bessel had been on the lookout for a specific piece Pichaiku vandiro, a lovingly derisive piece on Lord Shiva, and was in the process of choreographing it. “I got to see Bragha-akka chiseling the piece; I got to, sort of, be a part of her process, watch her develop it for the the first time.”

Shweta Prachande

That piece is in contrast to the varnam/ main item Natarajan will present, where she has interpreted Swami ninne kori nanura through the emotions of a maturing nayika. As a child, she’s enthralled by Lord Shiva, graduating to a crush; then an all-pervading love to finally, an acceptance of the supreme and steadfast one-ness.

Bangalore-based Praveen Kumar will anchor the second evening presentation. For him too, dance was related to happiness. “I was working with a Chartered Accountant, shuttling between work & dance (watching and performing)…There comes a time for everyone, when you decide how to proceed with life & for me it was Dance.” Kumar chose dance also, to stay connected with people in all walks of life. According to him, dance is a representation of Life and it helps him evolve every day.

This reflective side of him will be presented to us in Maate malayadwaja, speaking of the Goddess protecting not only the outer world but also the inner world. Kumar likens it to the realities of living in current times, “every human being is constantly trying to keep up with the pace with the outer world & their homes (inner world). [Only] when there is  a balance in both places, can one find serenity within oneself.”

Kumar portrays male characters every chance he gets, he believes them to be a vehicle for personal as well artistic exploration. It will be interesting to watch his javali, will his Krishna succeed in wooing back a sulking lover?

The nuances of expression are what drew Shweta Prachande, acclaimed artist-Priyadarshini Govind’s student, to the art-form. She says, “The way someone smiles, the way they turn their head, the way they say NO, the way they laugh, the way they express anger, all of these, when presented through expression/abhinaya help create a character.” We can look forward to her presentation of a strong willed and feisty woman through a Padam.

Like Kumar, Prachande too, sees dance as an interplay with life. According to her, “…the outside world is changing so quickly and society is perpetually in a state of flux…dance helps me look deeper to find a balance, to be resilient, to be more compassionate.” This centeredness, is what she brings to her performances, even when rapid footwork and precision technique are called for, such as in the Mishra Chapu Alaripu she will present on August 25th.

IDIA will present another male artist, Chennai-resident Christopher Guruswamy, who literally learnt BharataNatyam from the womb: His mother danced through her pregnancy and would take him to class after he was born. His awakening to the fact that he couldn’t possibly be anything but a BharataNatyam dancer came after he’d applied to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Gurusamy grew up in Australia) to learn ballet. In an interview, he’s said, “It was in this audition while doing ballet bare work that I realized how much I really hated ballet, loved BharataNatyam and wanted to go to Kalakshetra. So, I asked the panel to not accept me into the course which would let me go to India and study (something I only told my mum YEARS later).”

Anwesha Das

Gurusamy will present what he calls a happy varnam. “Many people consider Manavi to be a simple piece, but to me, it represents innocent, pure, stupid love. I see the nayika as this confident young girl…she could be Miss India, you know?…she just doesn’t understand why the Lord will not respond, there is after all, no reason for him to be so angry.”

Anwesha Das is the on-shore artist at IDIA. A Seattle resident, Anwesha’s dance journey began when her family lived in Chennai when she was a child, it so happened, close to the famed Urmila Sathyanarayanan’s classes. She remembers being enthralled by Sathyanarayanan’s Panchali Shapatham then.

Angayyar Kanni is the varnam through which Das hopes to bring out the beauty of Bharatanatyam, saying, “I enjoy presenting this piece because it portrays the nine emotions or Navarasas. I am in awe of the musicality & lyrics, as they give me ample scope to delineate small episodes of Devi in her different forms – Angayarkanni, Mahakali, Dakshashayani, Umai and so on.”

In Aduvvum Solluval, Das will portray a heroine animatedly talking about the rags to riches story of her rival while also dismissing her rival’s taunts.

Christopher Gurusamy

Natarajan, Kumar, Prachande, Gurusamy, and Das, each will allow us to coinhabit a joyous, connected space along with them. This feeling of community was what IDIA co-founders Kavita Thirumalai and Ganesh Vasudeva are striving to achieve. In a facebook post, Vasudeva says, “We have a dream/vision where Bay Area is one of the best centers for Bharatanatyam. We want Bay Area to produce our own Mythili Prakash. Not just one, but many. We want SF Bay Area to be inspired by quality and strive to attain that quality. We want dancers, and dance students to think critically and produce works that in turn makes audience think.”

Thirumalai is emphatic about the experience: “The mission of IDIA is to spark an immersive environment for aspiring artists, students, and lovers of BharataNatyam. IDIA was our way of creating vibrancy and currency to an otherwise rushed experience of learning and watching this beautiful art-form. IDIA is a whole day of immersion into the why, how, and what of BharataNatyam.”

 

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/idia-i-dance-hence-i-am-2019-tickets-64541376996

More info: https://www.facebook.com/IDANCEhenceIAM/

Heart to Heart: A Symphony of Music and Advocacy 

Have you considered that music can be a means to spread awareness on important public health issues? Three musicians hailing from three distinct cultures are crossing borders to transform hearts.They are using spiritual consciousness and healing energy, while drawing attention to  an alarming—but woefully under-reported—rise of congenital heart defects killing hundreds of thousands of children annually around the world. 

This trio of acclaimed multi-talented musicians are pioneering an adventurous blend of western jazz and Carnatic-style Indian music. The musicians in this diverse super group include India-born U. Rajesh, hailed by many as the world’s foremost Carnatic-style mandolin player; Greece-born Dimitris Lambrianos, a keyboard prodigy who is now a world-class composer and performer proficient on dozens of instruments; and American composer, recording artist, and music educator George Brooks, on the saxophone.

The concert sponsor, the U.S.-based Heart to Heart Foundation, supports low-cost pediatric heart surgeries that have saved the lives of thousands of children in numerous low-income countries. The concert will include a brief video presentation about the Foundation’s work.  

Saturday July 20, 7:30pm. Cemex Auditorium, Stanford University. For free tickets to this event, please register at:  https://tinyurl.com/H2H-Music . For additional information, please visit:  www.h2h.foundation

 

Sun: Natyanjali’s Stunning Production

Sun, The Annual Magnum Opus of the Natyanjali School of Dance Comes To Town

Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi was wandering through the Altes museum in Berlin, Germany when she spotted a familiar sight. The statue so familiar in so unfamiliar a setting took her by surprise. A ray of pleasure shone into her eyes. Her heart warmed as she spotted the statue of Soorya, the Sun god. Instantly transported to her home in India she remembered feeling the same pleasure when she had spotted the Egyptian Sun God, Ra in the Metropolitan museum in New York.

“Two ancient civilizations, India and Egypt miles apart had followed similar rituals and beliefs unbeknown to each other”, said Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi. “Both civilizations had similar ways of perceiving divinity. I want to share this with the rest of the world through the synthesis of North Indian, South Indian and Egyptian music and dance.”

The Natyanjali school of dance, whose artistic director and founder she is, is known for its annual magnum opus productions that are elaborate, unique and distinct. They aim to educate, inform and entertain. They appeal to both the novice and the connoisseur.

This year, in 2019, the school’s production is Sun, a tribute to the Hindu Sun God, Soorya and Egyptian Sun God, Ra will showcase the contrast and similarities of the two civilizations and their penchant for nature worship. Fifteen students from the age of ten to eighteen will perform a string of dances showcasing the two beliefs.

 Choreographed to Egyptian music the dance will show the juxtaposition between the two civilizations.

While Indians offered Gayatri Mantra prayers and water to the Sun, the Egyptian civilization used their intermediaries, the Pharaohs to appease the Sun god and plead to the serpent, Apophis who challenged Ra.

The oldest surviving Indian Vedic hymns, such as hymn 1.115 of the Rig-veda, mention Surya with reverence as the one that dispels darkness, empowers knowledge, the good, and all life. TheKonark Sun Temple represents the temple built for the Sun god.

In Egypt, the obelisk, a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument that ends in a pyramid-like shape, symbolizes the sun god Ra. “The rays of the sun, touched the obelisk and hit the floor. The temples were built with no roofs,” said Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi.“Two civilizations, we now see from the records of the historians, were doing identical rituals without knowing what the other was doing.”

Highly accomplished and acclaimed musicians from Bangalore Shrinithi Mathur Vocal, Shri H Shrihari on the Mridangam and Narsimha Murthy on the flute will give music to the performance.

The performance aims to entertain and educate. Under the direction of Guru Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi from Natyanjali school of dance students are trained in the craft of Bharatnatyam. One of the leading exponents of Bharata Natyam in Los Angeles, California, Guru Dr. MaliniKrishnamurthi, Founder and Artistic Director of Natyanjali School of Bharata Natyam Dance in Los Angeles, teaches dance in West Covina, California.

Date, Time: August 3 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Venue: Campus Theatre at Fullerton College, 321 E. Chapman Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Website / Contact : Darshana https://natyanjali.org/event/sun/

VIP seat ticket $50.00 Standard seat ticket $30.00 Discount seat ticket $20.00

Hindustani High in San Francisco

Hindustani High in San Francisco

San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) this year has a lineup coming up soon that pays homage to the collaborative performing spirit, with artists from India, China, and non-Indians playing Hindustani music sharing the stage. (Browse through this issue to read more about the dance events at the festival.)

Festival director Andrew Wood underscored why international collaboration was a conscious choice, saying, “Some people in other parts of the country may want to cloak themselves in a veil of intolerance, but we are different. San Francisco will lead by example and continue to embrace the people of the world. We invite all those who want to share in these sentiments and who still believe in America’s multicultural promise to join us for an occasion that is powerful, provocative, and beautiful.”

Melody of China, comprising musicians of Chinese-origin, views a collaboration with Indian-origin Swapan Chaudhuri as an opportunity to strengthen its contemporary arts focus while branching out to include other forms of traditional music. “Indian music has increasable rhythm, beautiful melody, and is very spiritual,” said Artistic Director Yangqin Zhao, who plays the hammered dulcimer.

Chaudhuri has always been struck by the similarities between other Asian melodies to Indian ones. “I first noticed it in 2000, when I was accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar, and then again last year, when I was playing in Japan. During rehearsals, they kept coming back to a scale that I realized was very similar to the Indian raag Bhupali.” He played it for them and there were astonished conversations after that. He experimented with the newly crafted Indo-Japanese sound with the ensemble at the School of Music where he teaches at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia.

The collaboration with Melody of China at SFIAF seemed like a perfect opportunity to extend musically into China and shape new tonal harmonies. While Chaudhuri will be playing an original composition, he cannot quite describe it, since it will come together as an improvised piece onstage. “The music will take care of you once you surrender to it,” he describes, “much like riyaaz (practice). I always tell my students, don’t “use” it, give it love, and you will get a lot back. There is no start and end. It’s never-ending. Once you surrender, you sense a special power.”

The multicultural, harmonizing vibe of the festival this year is not new to Chaudhuri; he remembers fondly the time he worked with Stevie Wonder on the album A Time to Love. The album has some brilliant percussion from all over the world, with the table rhythms being clearly discernible.

The presentation aims at bridging the gap between contemporary arts and traditional music as well. Artists also include Melody of China’s own Gangqin Zhao on Guzheng (zither, vocal), Wanpeng Guo on Sheng (mouth organ), Shenshen Zhang on Pipa (lute) and Xian Lu on Dizi (bamboo flutes). The concert will also feature the world premiere of a new piece, “Opera 4 x 4” in the style of Beijing Opera by Gang Situ with Melody of China and guest cellist Kevin Yu.

SFIAF has another event featuring Indian music with Matthew Montfort (known for his scalloped fretboard guitar) and Habib Khan (on the sitar). They too, are planning to surrender to music onstage. Montfort explains, “I really don’t know exactly what we will be playing yet as that will be determined by the muse. Pandit Habib Khan and I have quite a bit of repertoire that we have performed over the years, but we tend to make up new material onstage. I love working that way because it keeps things fresh!”

The scalloped fretboard guitar was constructed by Montfort and is influenced by both the veena and the sitar. He uses string bending techniques that are similar to those used on the sitar. But the guitar has the ability to play up chords of up to six notes. A guitar-sitar jugalbandi is exciting because it expands the territory of each instrument. For example, the sitarist has the opportunity to explore playing chords if so inspired, and for the guitarist, the challenge will be in matching them. The two artists have recorded five albums together. Ferhan Qureshi will accompany them on the tabla at the festival.

Montfort sees this performance as poignant in the context of Hindustani music tradition and the political climate today. He believes that some of the greatest successes in world fusion music right now are outgrowths of Hindustani music. He thinks the tradition is future-proofed internationally; but also in part by the fact that it accepts performers who were not born into it, such as himself.

However, he says, “Society’s commitment to support the arts has continued to erode, and so the future of virtuoso level music is in jeopardy. This is exacerbated by the current political environment, which is more toxic than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. World fusion music can be part of the solution to humanity’s problems. There is a lot of work to do to get things on a better path.”

8 p.m. Thursday, June 1
Ancient Future Guitar-Sitar jugalbandi
7 p.m. Sunday, June 4
Melody of China www. sfiaf.org
Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music and avidly tracks intersecting points between folk, classical, jazz and other genres.