The first two days in the Park brought various dances from Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Folk, Contemporary, Singalese, Flamenco, Balinese, Bhangara, Gidda, Garba and Bollywood giving a taste of the multicultural fervour of Western Sydney and surrounds as it is today. With enthusiastic flashmobs thrown in for ample measure there was something for all ages to see and experience. The performances were interspersed by the agile Mallakamb brothers whose acrobatic fetes on a pole were captivating.
Commencing with a beautifully choreographed padam in Tumaka Chalata Ramachandra, the Nrityagriha School of Classical Dance brought the story of Ramayana alive in Ode to Rama along with senior students Malavika Bharatvaj, Shruthi Nathani and Vaanie Krishnan. This was followed by a fast paced tharana in a tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar where all dancers showed their mastery over expression and rhythm.
In the Call of the Flute the students of the Samskriti School of Dance portrayed the story of Lord Krishna who binds the entire universe with the call of his flute. The first piece presented by Nandini Menon and Vishakha Iyer, was an evergreen favourite of Tamil poet Bharathiyar, ‘Theeradha Vilayatu Pillai’. Though the gopis are vexed with the cheeky pranks that Krishna plays on them they are drawn to him in unison as he calls with his flute. Both these youngsters showed immense expression and were thoroughly cute in their much to the joy of other little ones in the Park.
Followed by Vidya Gokul, expressively portraying a gopi asking Krishna to go with her to the arbour where the setting is ideal for love in Chaliye Gunjaname a composition of Swathi Thirunal. Vidya Gokul is fast proving to be one of Samskriti’s best, whose dedication is showing her command over expression and rhythm. This was followed by Govind Pillai performing as Krishna who makes the entire universe sway to his rhythm in a Tamil composition, Govindan Kuzhalosai. Govind Pillai once again proved his complete command over the mudras and adavus with athletic agility.
On the Verge by Govind Pillai and Raina Peterson focused on innovation and the discovery of new horizons in dance, performing a contemporary set based on the technique and aesthetics of their respective classical Indian dance styles (Bharathanatyam and Mohiniyattam), while drawing inspiration from Kalaripayattu (the martial art of Kerala), yoga and the body-bending manoeuvers of acro-balance.
Opening with a traditional sloka in praise of Lord Krishna with his lover Radha, we saw Radha (played by Raina Peterson) part with the familiar embrace of Krishna to embark on a journey into a brave new world; a metaphor for the journey an artist takes, as he/she departs from the familiarity of tradition in order to pursue something new.
In the second piece, Govind Pillai explored the versatility of classical Indian dance by superimposing traditional movements onto a landscape of world music including a native american hymn, improvised jazz beats and techno-electronic music.
Finally, in perhaps the most innovative of all their pieces, the duo challenged two boundaries that are usually associated with classical Indian dance. Firstly: classical Indian dance is known to draw heavily on rhythmic patterns in music; what if these were absent? Secondly, classical Indian dance is not known to incorporate partner contact work; what if we were to introduce this? Thus, opening with a rhythmically fluid jazz track, and concluding with partner-contact inspired by acro-balance; Raina and Govind explored the possibility that a new dance aesthetic may be born from their traditional roots.
From Street to Stage…. Kuchipudi Performance by Aruna Iyengar and students
Lights twinkle as the sun begins to set….. and so the dancers of the Shakthi School of Indian Dance, founded by Aruna Iyengar, bring back echoes of the ancient tradition of night theatre in story telling.
As it was hundreds of years ago, the dancers danced in open air, audiences sat on the grassy ground mesmerized with the unfolding danceform of Kuchipudi coming alive on the Park stage.
In praise of the elephant headed god Ganesha, Shweta Shah and Payal Mukherjee, presented the Ganesha Kowthvam in deliberate slow movements to a Slokha in ragam Gowla, praising Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. Followed by the composition of BalaMurali Krishnain in Ragam Aarabhi, the captivating grace of Kuchipudi is witnessed in brisk movements sets the mood and stage for gen next.
The youngsters who followed Sahana Iyengar (Aruna’s daughter), DivyaVaradhan and Riya Shah presented “AayiramAayiram”, a Tamil composition sung by Bombay Jayashri about the cheeky blue god known for stealing butter, and dancing with the Gopis. The girls looked confident as they presented dancing Gopis and a dancing Krishna, choreographed by Aruna.
The main item of the segment was performed by Aruna and her senior most disciple Shobhana Kambhammettu. They presented a complex item in praise of Lord Shiva called “Sankara Sri Giri”, a composition of Maharaja Swati Tirunal in ragam Hamsanandhi. As the thundering footsteps of the Lord of Dance storms on stage, his body covered in ash, with a powerful magical third eye turning evil into ashes. He who wears a garland of skulls had the audience in complete rapture.
Aruna and Shobhana then skilfully brought out the brass plate to dance upon it. Competing with each other in the dance, showing first pure footwork, and then the speciality of Kuchipudi, dancing on the brass plate, in conversation with each other. They both manoeuvred skilfully and seamlessly around the stage, showing their mastery of amazing balance and strength to complex rhythms