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 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

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NNKB Annual Recital Rocks Georgia Tech


The theme was the Wheel of time-but time stood still for nearly five hours as students from Kumud and Sandeep Savla’s Dance and Music Academy Nritya Natya Kala Bharati took center stage at the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts auditorium at Georgia Tech on May 18th, to present their annual recital.

Perhaps the most endearing thing about Kathak as a dance form is its free flowing style which gives you the freedom to do so much even when you stay within the tradition.

Kathak is one of the six major classical dance forms of India and through song, dance and mime, rhythmically complex footwork, and spinning, it depicts epic poems and myths in a dramatic form. It focuses especially on the great Indian epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and the Puranas of Sanskrit literature.

Initially Kathak was used as a devotional presentation in temples but then it graduated into the royal courts of both Hindu and Muslim rulers of India. Soon a class of elegant courtesans and dancers made Kathak an enticing and exhilarating form of visual phenomenon. It took on a different hue in different regions. While you were dazzled by the technical mastery of the Jaipur Gharana on one hand, you were seduced by the sensuous and dramatic allure of the Lucknow gharana nurtured in the courts of King Wajid Ali Shah who studied Kathak and was a poet extraordinaire.

The first half of the recital showcased various classical pieces that Kumud Savla and her husband Sandeep create from scratch every year. “It is really important also that whatever we present is diverse so that the audience doesn’t get bored, because if the themes and footwork are repetitive, then even an hour of classical presentation becomes tough to watch,” says Kumud.

The first half was a visual delight-with color, diverse age groups, and classical pieces being presented on stage. You saw items from the very basic with enchanting little girls from ages four onwards to the more complex and breath taking rhythmic circles, hand movements and vigor for the older teenagers who have been at the Academy for a few years. The dancers danced to raga based taranas, prayers and had the audience enraptured as a live orchestra comprising of both accomplished professional and trained musicians like Alamgir, Mahua Mukerjee, Jayur Patel, tabla player Dexter Raghunanan, Phillip Hollenback, Sandeep himself, wonderfully gifted flutist Apurva Shrivastava, and the young upcoming students from the music academy that Sandeep is rightly proud of. The pros and the amateurs blended very well. Sandeep says creating the pieces was the easy part. Getting everyone’s time coordinated for rehearsals was the tough part. Many came in for just one and at times two or three rehearsals because of other commitments. At times, said Sandeep with a laugh, he would do the female vocals to fill in for the talented Mahua Mukherjee.

The cutest visuals are always with the little ones. Dressed in beautiful, colorful Indian outfits, they stand there, wide eyed, speaking the bols under the guidance of Kumud, and bring the house down each time.
There were several students who have really improved over the years and their grace and stylish performances were highlighted by some lovely compositions, and complex footwork. One segment had the older group of students perform 50 circles non stop-its exhausting just to watch them and be amazed that they don’t fall down. But then the real pros do between 100-500 such circles!
The classical segments was followed by a few non themed items to popular songs like Jhooti Mooti mitwa sung beautifully by Mahua and Piya Basanti as girls and boys danced away.

Easily the show stopper for the evening was a special fusion performance by a young highly talented dancer-25 year old Ira Cambric 111. Ira has won many prestigious dance competitions, teaches modern dance and has performed in Thailand and Japan. Ira and Kumud met by chance. While visiting Global mall one day he saw the dance academy. Kumud was not in and he left his profile. She was intrigued, and invited him to perform with them. They barely practiced three times but he brought the house dance when he performed with Kumud on Soona Soona, Sonu Niigaam’s hit from his album Classically Mild. It was a great moment for world art as Indian dance met ballet, jazz and hiphop and created its own fragrance. Later in the evening Ira wore an Indian outfit and looking quite dashing performed Indian steps that Kumud taught him for the finale.

The grand finale was a dream come true for Kumud in a way. “For years, I have had songs imprinted in my mind that I could never forget all the way back from my childhood, Then along the way I would hear more songs that would touch my heart and I would wonder how to put these songs to dance, but could never figure out what would work. Then it occurred to me to may be create a time cycle and present songs from each era. Then the phrase Wheel of time got stuck in my head and that is how the project began.”

Kumud looked over hundreds of songs from the very beginning once sound came into films, and realized that it was the forties that began the rich, timeless journey of unforgettable melodies that are still enchanting. The wheel of time took the audience back to each decade starting from 1947 and reached its zenith in 2008. Wrapped in its melodies was host for the segment Shiraz Sharief, who ushered in each decade with couplets, anecdotes and appreciation of the melodies and the melody makers of each era.

Evergreen songs from Afsana likh rahi hoon, mere piya gaye Rangoon, jawan hai mohabbat, hawa mein udhta jaye, to the blockbuster mera joota hai japani, man dole mera tan dole, the outstanding Shola jo Bhadke, to Kaaton se khinch ke yeh aanchal, Jhumka gira re, hoton pe aisi baat, all the way to Om Shanti Om were performed, as the dancers pulled all the stops, recreating each era with props, dance, dresses made specially for the items from these films. Silent Killers again rocked the stage as they stepped it up along with a couple of segments from younger boys as well.

The Academy is now taking a step further and committing itself to several projects which include creating scholarships ranging from 1500 to 25,000 dollars, affiliating with leading Ivy League Universities in the US and prestigious music schools in India to add a new dimension to the school. This will in turn also benefit many of its students. Focus on community work and certification, and references to colleges at time of admission will soon be another perk of being part of NNKB. Sandeep says he is also planning to have a small musical recital to showcase the progress his music students have made.

The emcees for the evening were the charming Viren Mayani, whose natural warmth, knowledge of music and comfort on stage kept the evening rolling, and Sammy Bhura who was doing double duty as emcee and spokesperson for American United Bank, looking pretty in pink.
A special thanks to the Savlas for allowing Nupur Gupta one of the students to dedicate the grand finale to Sunil Kapahi who passed away on 11th May. Sunil was an active community member, a big favorite of all the children and never missed a recital, even though his two daughters are not in the Academy. It was just how he was-always there for the young ones to support any thing they did. This was especially poignant, because the finale had all the songs he loved. I know he was watching from above and giving a big thumbs up to every little child that tapped her/his feet to a melody.


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