BY VEENA RAO
Atlanta: Asha for Education and Deeksha School of Performing Arts (DSPA) presented Sanskriti 2009, a celebration of Indian classical dances at the Southern Polytechnic State University’s Joe Mack Wilson auditorium on April 11, where pure talent, creativity, dedication and flawless presentation took the evening to a whole new level.
The presentation was conceived, choreographed and directed by Atlanta danseuse Anupa Gula Thakurta.
The sold-out program was a fundraiser for Asha’s educational schemes in India. Marietta mayor Bill Dunaway was the guest of honor at the event.
Thakurta and students from her Deeksha School of Performing Arts presented Bharatanatyam in its traditional and adapted forms, while maestro Hemant Panwar performed in pure Kathak style.
The presentation was divided into two acts. The first act, Nritya showcased the talents of Thakurta’s students. Students in various age groups- some as little as five- performed flawlessly and with great confidence; a testament to the hard work and dedication of all involved. Performances ranged from the traditional Shri Ganesha Charanam, Allaripu and Nrityamala to fusion concepts like the dance of “Good over Evil’. This was followed by a mesmerizing performance by maestro Panwar, whose exqusite footwork left the audience hypnotized and gasping in amazement. The highlight of the evening was a brilliant innovative jugalbandi by Thakurta in Bharatanatyam style and Panwar in Kathak style.
The finale of the first act was the creative endeavor ‘O Saya’, performed by all students of DSPA and the two maestros Thakurta and Panwar, where traditional bharatanaytam and kathak were adapted to the contemporary AR Rahman composition from the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.
The second act, Natya was the dance drama Chitra: the warrior princess, an original choreography by Thakurta in Bhararatnatyam and Kathak styles adapted from Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s famous dance drama about an episode in the Indian epic Mahabharat. Chitra was played in bharatanatyam style by Thakurta herself in the first half and by talented kathak dancer Kalyani Kar in the latter half. Maestro Panwar played Arjuna. The brilliance of ‘Chitra’ was the seamless blending of two dance styles to effectively narrate a story.
Thakurta said one of her objectives in presenting Chitra, was to perform a cross-cultural experiment around the universally appealing theme of a woman’s search for identity and self-definition.
The performance was enhanced with audiovisuals and stunning sets and lighting. Music for the program was digitally mixed and mastered by Atlanta native Dr. Raktim Sen. The professionalism and collaborative effort of everybody involved produced brilliant results.
Mayor Dunaway said he and his wife (a ballet dancer) were not prepared for what they were seeing that evening. “It is all so beautiful,” he said.
The hosts for the evening, Vandana Aggarwal and Siddhart Kelam, both dancers themselves, did a good job emceeing the program.
Asha volunteers Pritesh Patel and Vineet Jain recounted the story of a young autistic boy named Pratap, who survived at the mercy of villagers until Asha found him five years back.
“Today, Pratap not only has an education, but is also lending a helping hand to his classmates,” said Patel.
“Thousands of children are taught that it is okay to dream. Children like Pratap are the reason why Asha is here,” added Jain.
The duo said it took six months of hard work to put the production together, and thanked those present for supporting a worthy cause.
The program was certainly one of the best in recent times.