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Visit by the Dhananjayans to Natya Dhaara in Atlanta, GA
- Yami Joshi, Atlanta

July 11, 2007

During the month of May, my dance teacher, Uma aunty told me that her gurus, Master Dhananjayan and Shanta Akka were coming to visit her here in Atlanta. She wanted her students to perform for them, and get their blessings. She wanted to organize a small event with a couple of items to be performed by her students. My teacher Uma Pulendran runs a dance school, Natya Dhaara in Atlanta, GA.

After hearing this, I was excited but at the same time a bit nervous. All the other students were very excited too. Uma aunty called them for extra practice classes, so that we could do our best on the day of the performance. There were total of three items to be performed. One group would perform Madhurashtakam, which is a prayer about Lord Krishna. Another one would be a piece set to an instrumental classical music. The preceding performance would be a Pushpanjali, by me, choreographed by the Dhananjayans themselves.

Everyone was waiting for the D-day to come. The program was on the 20th of June, at 6pm. The day finally came when the dancers were ready to do their best. There were many people, most of the students of Uma aunty and their parents. The program started with some warming up with some singing. Many of the students were not ready to sing: They were shy or said they had forgotten the words. To lighten up every one, Akka said that a Bollywood song or even an English song would be fine. Master and Akka talked with everyone. A well developed discussion began when the parents spoke to Master and Akka about their lives, and about how and when they take dance classes and camps. They emphasized the importance of remembering what you learn - knowledge is power. Master asked everyone various questions too. He asked students for how long they practiced, and told us how much they danced when they were young. Shanta akka also said that they danced for at least five to six hours per day. When she told us this, we were quite astonished. My memories went years back, when I had watched Master's and Akka's beautiful performance in Kalakshetra, in Chennai. From the Dhananjayans, we as students learnt that "only practice makes a man perfect," and without it we cannot pursue our goal. All the parents and students were vitalized after meeting Master and Akka.

After a while, the dance items were performed. Pushpanjali was performed by me, Yami Joshi. Madhurashtakam was performed by Karen Tharakan, Shivani Palanivel, Mayuri Iyengar, Lavanya Ramakrishnan, Nandhini Prakash and Supriya Kumar as Krishna. The dance piece set to instrumental Tillana music was performed by Dhakshi Balakumar and Dharani Balakumar. They were appreciated by both Master and Akka. After the performance, they called some of the other students and made them do different moves and steps. While Akka gave the beat on the Tattukazhi, Master recited the Jathis, and all the students danced. Though they are internationally famous gurus of very high standards, they knew that positive reinforcement is the best way to encourage and motivate children, so they complimented us many times. Words like "very good," and "good job" from the great masters was like a tonic for us.

At the end, refreshments were served. There was Payasam, a sweet dish, a favorite of mine, different varieties of rice dishes, and tasty Jalapeno poppers. Everyone enjoyed the evening thoroughly. Meeting the divine gurus was enlightening and totally inspiring.

Yami Joshi, is a 10th grader at Chattahoochee High School, Atlanta, GA and a Bharatanatyam student of Uma Pulendran.

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