Natyalayaa, School of Indian Classical Dance’s showcase event of the year, Geometry, took place on 20 February at Rowville Secondary College. Everything from mobs of rams, to herds of elephants, to dancers adorned in all the colours of the rainbow, took to the stage to explore the stories, relationships and forms of Hindu philosophy’s “Navagrahas” – the nine planets.
Under the creative direction of Usha Sripathmanathan and set to compositions of Kumbakonam A. Gajendran, Geometry, highlighted the principle angles of the navagraha deities as well as the character, vehicle and powers of each of the seven visible planets central to Hindu Astrology: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and two lunar nodes(Raghu and Kethu). The Bharathanatya dancers were supported by an impressive orchestra with Ahilan Sivananthan on vocal, M. Ravichandhira on miruthangam, Murali Kumar on violin, Thiagarajan Ramani on flute, and Varman & Varshan Shri Pathman on Kanchira.
Geometry will surely linger in the minds of all involved for years to come. It marked Usha Sripathmanathan’s twentieth year at the helm of Natyalayaa, which she founded. Natyalayaa has blossomed to become a cultural asset in Victoria, encompassing students from a whole range of nationalities. In 2009, Usha Sripathmanathan was recognised and presented with the Premier’s Award for Dance. Meanwhile, for Natyalayaa students, Geometry marked many firsts. As the first dance ballet encompassing the whole dance school, Geometry created the opportunity for junior and senior students to dance alongside each other. The chance to take part in their first Dance ballet was relished by the younger students who all worked hard to step up to the next level. For a handful of senior students, who engaged in their first foray into choreography in Geometry, February 20, 2010 will hold a special place in their memory. The challenge to choreograph, teach and present a segment of work was received with terror blended with exhilaration at first. No longer allowed to shelter in their cocoons, the senior girls were forced to spread their wings and step out, however tentatively, to produce work that was to be scrutinised by an audience. In this way, Geometry offered something for everyone and the audience was no different. The crowd was treated to an original, educational, colourful and flowing exploration of “Navagrahas”, an area of Hindu philosophy that still retains timeless relevance, awe and respect in the minds of followers and outsiders alike.
By Srigala Navaratnarajah