BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by Pat Tyron Films
Nritya Natya Kala Bharti (NNKB), Atlanta’s premier Indian dance and music academy presented its 11th Annual Dance Recital at the Atlanta Civic Center on Sunday, March 18, 2012. The nearly sold out show was graced by the presence of Consul General of India in Atlanta, Hon.Ajit Kumar and other dignitaries.
The program was emceed by Atlanta’s well known Viren Mayani, his wife Rifka Mayani, Azhar Farooqui and Sadaf Farooqui. Viren had also composed the informative and well researched script for the program, which was delivered by him, Rifka, Azhar and Sadaf in presenting the theme and brief introduction of the legendary icons and various festivals of India presented through the dances.
Viren warmly welcomed all, recognized the Chief Guest, Hon. Ajit Kumar, and invited him on the stage where he, flanked by Music Director / Choreographer Sandeep Savla and Dance Director and Choreographer Kumud Savla, daughter Samta and son Sil lighted the traditional diya and invoked the blessings of Lord Ganesha. In his brief remarks on the occasion, Hon Ajit Kumar lauded NNKB for propagating the rich Indian culture and traditions in Atlanta through its music and dance training and annual recitals.” I thank NNKB for inviting me and look forward to enjoying the program,” he said.
The charming, articulate and composed emcees Rifka and Sadaf built instant rapport with the audience. The first segment, innovatively and imaginatively choreographed by Kumud Savla, comprised of classical Kathak dances on the theme of ‘Shakti’, performed by Kumud Savla and the Academy’s gifted and trained students. Shakti means sacred force or empowerment. India has been lauded for its finest embodiments of Shakti, from Durga to Sita, Draupadi to Rani Padmini, Rani Laxmi Bai to Tana Riri, Mother Teresa to Sunita Williams and Kalpana Chawla to Indira Gandhi – all have depicted the varied forms of Shakti, throughout their lives. The performers paid a tribute to these legendary icons through ten captivating dances with flawless execution, precision footwork, and varying formations, performed to live music.
The first six engrossing dances as a tribute to Durga; Sita; Draupadi, Rani Padmini; Rani of Jhansi and Tana Riri showcased the dancing proficiency of the Academy’s dancing Guru Kumud Savla and skills of her students. Mahisha sur mardini followed by the different forms of Durga with all her strengths, was performed to the song "aye Giri Nandini"
The next dance, Sita - was set to 3 Chaupais'(quatrains). The following dance which depicted the infamous disrobing episode of in Mahabharata ,was set to "Mori peed suno Mat Der Karo".The Tana Riri dance was a captivating jugal bandi performance.
Who does not dream of touching the sky? Next two dances were a glowing tribute to space heroes Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. Both have been role models for all, so it was heartwarming to see the Academy’s youth depict their aspirations through their dance, sky is the limit.
Tribute was then paid to another exemplary legend, Mother Teresa. This dance and the accompanying heart tugging music, depicted a poignant scene showing a poor boy (Sil Savla) begging on the street and being ignored by the passersby till Mother Teresa comes and extends her helping hand.
As a tribute to India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the performers presented a dance inspired by her personality and charisma, where there is will there is a way.
The last item in this segment was the piece de resistance-a collaborative Kathak and Flamenco fusion dance: Kathak by Samta Savla and Flamenco by Rebecca Lutz. There are many striking similarities between Kathak and Flamenco, a Southern Spanish dance. This dance was widely applauded by the audience.
Rifka and Sadaf recognized members of live orchestra, who had done a splendid job.
Sandeep Savla on vocal and keyboards, Kumud Savla on padant or rhythmic recitations, Shashank Fadnis on vocals, Preeti Uttam - female vocals, Additional keyboard and chorus accompaniments by NNKB students and their teachers, Apurva Srivastava – Flute, Ustad Ekram Kalavant – Sarangi, Pt. Gaurishankar Karmakar – Tabla, Phillip Holenbeck – Pakhawaj, Jayur Patel - side rhythms, Ganesh Jagtap – percussions, Ajit Pachegaokar – guitar.
The second segment, was a celebration of India’s slew of festivals that are borne out of legends, seasons, customs, and religions; observed and celebrated throughout each year. The students of NNKB successfully mimicked that gaiety and exuberance of culture through the kaleidoscope of dances and popular Bollywood hits. In brief;
Baisakhi Mela had a high voltage energetic Bhangra, dance which soon had the audience tapping their feet and clapping their hands.
The festival celebrating the sacred bond between a brother and sister,Raksha Bandhan was marked with a dance to Rakhi bandhwale mere vir.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is very popular dance with the masses. It had two high energy, fast & rhythmic dance to a Marathi song and also Deva Shri Ganesha. Some dancers surprised the audience by running on the stage from the aisles carrying Ganesha idol on head and later dancing with the lezim.
The festival of Janamasthami was celebrated with full fervor to a medley of four songs:Govind bolo,Hari Gopal bolo,Maiya Yashoda old, and Maiya Yashoda new, and Mach Gaya Shor. A few spunky Govindas formed a human pyramid and broke the dahi(yogurt) handi to the wild cheery applause of the audience.
Festivals of Karva Chauth presented through dances to a five well-chosen songs-Ghar Ayaa Pardesi Tera Des; Rang Deeni; Piya to se Naina; Bole Chudiyan; and Mera Piya Ghar Aaya; of Teej- dance with two Rajasthani songs in medley- Sawan Aayo & Ara rara; of Eid-dances with songs- Sajda & Wallah Re Wallah, of Navratri: exuberant Garba and DandiaRaas-Amabaji Maa and dholida dhol re vaggad;of Lohri- Sunder Mundien and Giddha-Nachdi mein; of Diwali: Medley- Beera; Rama Ho Rama, and Ayee Diwali Ayee; of Christmas-who Masiha aaya hai;of Maha Shivratri-with pulsating beat of drums to song Babam bam and breathtaking aerial dance and dance on a giant circular ring by Samta; and finally
Holi-dance that rocked with hit-song-Dhinka Chika;Nachere Madhubala; and Ja re hat nat khat, Aayi holi.The performers on stage as Rama,Sita and Laxmana under a parasol was a visually striking touch!
When all the performers were on stage for the final bow, a loud burst of confetti showered on them and they all deservedly earned a standing ovation.
The annual recital, an exuberant extravaganza of song, music and dance was a delectable feast of fetching colors, shimmering costumes, facial and hair adornments, youthful exuberance, extraordinary depth and range of classical, folk and fusion dances with innovative and creative choreography, which mesmerized the riveted audience!
The pictures and portraits of the legendary icons, colorful festivals etc. on the giant screen and props by Aslam Parvez and Syam Yellamraju, like the giant wheel on the stage,swings,hanging handi with buttermilk etc. added extra sparkle to the dances. With each annual show,NNKB is raising the bar and gaining in popularity and acclaim. As an added incentive for the students it has instituted a dance and music certification program, affiliated with Gandharva Mahavidyalaya of Pune. The exciting journey continues…