A Pure Beginning – Sydney Dance Festival 2014

Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts, is the brainchild of Smt Kalpana Sriram. Behind its name ‘Madhuram’ lies a less known story. The story of the legendary Kannagi. The story goes that after Kannagi left Madurai burning to ashes in anger, in her travels further south she stops at a small temple in the outskirts of a village. The resident goddess of the temple asks Kannagi to rest and calm herself. This temple is still standing to date in a remote South Indian village which Sriram and Kalpana revere and visit. Today Kannagi is worshipped in her gentle compassionate form, Madhuram, twice a week at the temple says Kalpana, and hence so chosen was the name with the idea of bringing a Dance Festival to Sydney. “I am sick of Indian culture being portrayed as Butter Chicken and Bollywood” says Kalpana Sriram vehemently in disgust


The Sydney Dance Festival was born after many consultations and meetings with eminent people high up in the artistic echelons of India says Kalpana. The invited artists were selected after consultations with great stalwarts such as the legendary Smt Chitra Visweswaran and Dr Sunil Kothari, dance critic and historian of India amongst others.

The first day commenced with local students of Samskriti School of Dance presenting ‘Srishti’. Srishti saw the dancers present in Bharathanatyam the 5 elements of nature Earth, Space, Fire, Water and Air to music produced by extremely talented local musicians choreographed by Dancer and Teacher, Hamsa Venkat. Hamsa commendable efforts see her students successfully weave the stories in resounding choreography with footsteps and dramatic sculpturistic poses aided by lighting and music effects. .

Prateeksha Kashi, only 23 years old and the daughter of Vyjayanthi Kashi, her beauty and command of the style of Kuchipudi on the stage was captivating. Prateeksha’s excellent rendition of Dashavatharam and the famous Sathyabamane followed by Shankara Shrigiri saw a well rounded performance coming to life with a balance of expression and rhythm.

Sydhwaney briefly interviewed Prateeksha Kashi who sums up her performance and gives a personal message to upcoming Kuchipudi students in Sydney below:

If the flowing soft whirling Kuchipudi was enthralling, Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya, student of Chitra Visweswaran, was energy abound with Ananda Narthana Ganapathim followed by the reverberating story of the Monkey God in Anjaneya Raghu Rama set to able footwork and jathis, and entertaining expressive drama. After a cristp Viruttam and Thaye Yasoda, the voice of the Late Visweswaran in Pyare Darshan Di Jo Aaj, brought the emotion of Viraha, followed by the cheerful rendition of Madhurashtakam interspersed with thillana. The striking element in this final piece is when Lakshmi alternated between male and female, the ying and the yang within one cycle of rhythm. Listen to Lakshmi Parthasarathy talk about what it is to dance to recorded music, what items to choose when performing as a solo dancer, to be a dedicated student, and about new themes and stories :


From the temples of South India the Festival moved to the lesser known, Sattriya Dance form originating in Assam. Sattriya was presented by Anita Sharma and Naren Boruah. A male dominated acrobatic yet flowing style, Naren Boruah told Sydhwaney that it takes many years of physical training. There are specific body bending and mind boggling exercises that dancers have to practice to attain a proficiency in this dance form that narrates  epic mythological stories of the East. The male and female postures enhance the beauty of this dance form. Anita Sharma explains the hand mudras below and Naren demonstrates a few steps for us.

Ayona Bhaduri, is a Nrityagram student that develops Odissi dance however includes influences of yoga martial arts and natya shastra. There are higher leg raising movements and jumps to the traditional dance of Odissi says Ayona Bhaduri. Ayona Bhaduri’s pallavi in Kirwani was interesting followed by Tolagi and Ahe nIla Sailo. Listen to her interview with Sydhwaney here: