The Natyakala Conference of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha highlighted the contribution of NRI dancers.
This year's Natya Kala Conference, by providing a handsome slot in the proceedings to dancers pursuing careers abroad, acknowledged the contribution of these artistes in making our dances a part of mainstream international dance activity. While eyebrows have been raised at the dancers of traditional forms becoming converted to the contemporary western dance idiom with all the `fusion confusion,' we must not forget dancers who through years have stuck to their traditional roots providing a strong anchor point for the classical dances.
Several dancers spoke of their varied experiences. For Viji Prakash, the classical vocabulary had a conviction communicating across cultures and few students grudged three years spent on learning only basic movement units like adavus.
If her rendition of the Natesa Kavutvam represented the hoary tradition, her guru Kalyanasundaram hailed from, the Rama Kavutvam composed by the guru's son and presented with grace and perfection of line, by her daughter/disciple Mythili, represented the more contemporary version of Bharatanatyam in its fuller virtuosity as against the interwoven word/sollu mix of the old Natesa Kavutvam.
That years spent in the States have not diluted her abhinaya prowess could be seen from Viji Prakash's presentation of the Padam in Saveri ``Unnai Doodanuppinen." Working within the Bharatanatyam parameters while interacting with Hip Hop, Flamenco, Balinese dance, Ballet, Viji had choreographed several productions extremely well received by foreign audiences.
Padma Rasiah residing in Yogaville in Virginia, spoke, with film clips to substantiate her lecture, of how from very small beginnings, her Bharatanatyam became a way of enabling western children to communicate and a therapy for the handicapped. From such a modest start to the present when her students are here for a full-fledged performance designed by her guru Dhananjayans, is a long journey.
For Savitri Naidoo in South Africa, where racism and apartheid prevailed, community get-togethers preserved the Indian identity. Today Bharatanatyam schools function in different areas and Indian dance is a Matric subject offered in secondary school. In the hot multi-cultural milieu of South Africa, the give and take between cultures meant that Bharatanataym dancers were also learning African dances. The students presented a peppy African Gum Boot Dance, a legacy from the mine workers in the apartheid regime. Then there was the happy Manjiyam dance- all this while keeping Bharatanatyam well nourished! This interaction enabled the inhibited Indian child to become more outgoing.
Monica Cooley, an American disciple of the Narasimhacharis, talked about stressing the Universal aspects of Bharatanatyam in communicating to American audiences. The beautiful geometry of lines, rhythm and emotion were all aspects appealing across cultures. Non-religious themes which alone qualified for financial support were thought of for dance work. How all dancers had explored new directions without tampering with the stylistic grammar of the traditional dance styles was noteworthy.
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