While speaking with Anuradha, I was curious about how her journey with dance started. She explained that she was exposed to kathak at the age of four. At that tender age, her journey with kathak began with her sitting on the lap of the instructor, just to be in the environment of kathak dancers. These early experiences pushed her to begin and continue her dance lessons for many years, and her passion peaked in eleventh grade, when she realized that she wanted to pursue dance professionally. Even in the midst of intensive studies in her twelfth grade trying to gain admission to medical school, she says that she could not “let go of dance.” This intrinsic love for dance along with her family’s support allowed Anuradha to grow in this art form, culminating in her efforts this year in directing the show – Smriti Maalika.
Having little to no exposure to Sanskrit, my first thoughts concerned the meaning of Smriti Maalika. Anuradha soon explained that smriti means “remembrance,” while maalika means “joining the pieces together to form a garland.” The name of the show seems fitting, as this show serves to remember her guru Pt. Vijai Shankar through a curation of dance pieces from the last twenty-six years.
When discussing the arduous task of selecting the dances, Anuradha explained how she considered a number of factors: the popularity of the pieces, capability of the dancers, and the way the pieces fit together into a whole were just some of the factors considered. The overall goal, she said, “is to have all the pieces blend together and climax to create a memorable experience for audience members.”
One dance piece that Anuradha went into detail about was Khoj, a piece that she choreographed and that will now be featured in her upcoming show. The literal meaning of Khoj is “to search”. This piece is based on the feelings of the Gopis after Lord Krishna left Vrindavan. In this dance piece, the central theme is remembrance, and the choreography by Anuradha aimed to portray the painful thoughts that the Gopis have of realizing that they will not get to encounter Lord Krishna anymore. But, the one thing the Gopis are left with are beautiful memories. Therefore, the emotions of separation and the acceptance of absence being fulfilled by memories are blended with traditional Kathak in “Khoj”. Anuradha also explained how excited she is to watch her senior dancers perform this piece during the show.
Anuradha’s approach to choreography proves to be innovative, in that she tries to close the gap between traditional kathak and contemporary India. She aims to incorporate music from all over the world in her pieces while staying true to Kathak dance. Smriti Maalika will feature music stylings from Japan, Ireland, and Spain, while maintaining the traditional styling associated with kathak. “The overall goal is to have audience members be taken on a day’s journey with the rising of the sun in Japan on the second day,” said Anuradha.
Anuradha says that this show is in large part in honor of Pt. Vijai Shankar, her dance guru who changed her life in immeasurable ways. She says that even though her guru did not receive the recognition he deserved, he was a genius and an acclaimed king of rhythm who received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi award. Most importantly, he influenced her way of thinking in creating dance pieces. In redoing pieces that she created with her guru, she wants to honor him and the work he did.
I discussed what the name of her company – Tarangini – means. She described how the name Tarangini represents waves coming to the seashore, which is similar to dancers coming to the first beat, sam. This name was coined by Padmavibhushan Pt. Birju Maharaj who explained that just as all waves come to the seashore and splash, dancers finish on the first beat. Therefore, the seashore is symbolic to the first beat that dancers finish on.
After having this heartfelt conversation with Anuradha and discussing her experiences with dance, I can’t help but feel excited to attend this show. Her work is truly inspiring, and on May 18 and 19th, she is all set to take audience members on an unforgettable journey from the past to the present.
Anjali Sadarangani is a senior in high school at Basis Independent Silicon Valley. Her primary interest is neuroscience, but through her internship at India Currents, she is gaining an appreciation for journalism. She will be at the Smriti Maalika show.