Ehsaas 2007 - an evening of Bharatanatyam  
Presented by Arpan-School for Performing Arts, Seattle 
- Radha Janardhan 
May 11, 2007 

As the evening unscrolled in front of an anticipating audience on May 6, 2007 in Seattle's Ethnic Culture Theatre at the University of Washington, the first chapter of a fledgling school for performing arts was getting written by 14 or more students of Joyce Kakariyil Paul. A student of Leela Samson, Joyce approaches dance with reverence, creativity and precision. Her students are of all age levels and different skill levels. 
The Nataraja on stage promised everything to be right and the brochure suggested a pleasant mix of classical and modern artistry - the classical as taught by the Guru and the modern mix as created by the students themselves. The ambience was again a mix of North and South with strains of Hindustani Ragas setting the mood for an evening of Bharatanatyam.  

The classical performance began with two charming comperes enlightening the audience with the history of the origin of Bharatanatyam. The language was succinct as well as imaginative and it gave a professional touch to the first performance of the school. 

The first item was the traditional Omkar combined with Guru Namaskar and prayers to the cosmic dancer Shiva. All the students walked in silently and chanted shlokas with no music; just their strong voices echoing across the rows of seats in a full auditorium. 

The presentation of Alarippu introduced the skills of the dancers well as they moved into the complexity of rhythmic patterns with ease and grace. The arrangement by Raji Harikrishnan and placement of dancers was charming and well thought of. This was done with recorded music and one wished for the live nattuvangam of the guru to make it all even livelier.  

From Alarippu we warmed on to Jatiswaram and it was a pleasant surprise to find two Jatiswarams awaiting us - one based on the lilting Vasantha and the other based on Saveri. Each was performed by two different sets of three students. The performers exhibited the expected level of skill in hand, eye and foot coordination.  

Now the audience was ready for some Sahithya and bhava interpretation which was impressively brought out in the Shabdam set to Ragamalika. While the audience soaked themselves in the Sahithya describing the mesmerizing quality of Balakrishna's divine flute, the performers brought out mother Yashoda's anguish over the beads of sweat on the brow of her divine son and the anticipation and the yearning of the Gopis very impressively. The item left the audience wishing for more items based on the rich heritage of Indian poetry. The explanation of mudras by one of the students relating to the sahithya recited by the compere was enjoyed by those who were unfamiliar with the text. 

The last item of the classical performance was 'Kala Prayanam,' conceived and choreographed in the true spirit of the Kalakshetra style by Joyce K Paul to depict life as a journey into time and space. Kala, in all its unchangeable ability to fabricate the destiny of each human being, touches each dancer as they go to a predefined position in time and space. This powerfully choreographed piece was set to Raga Bageshree by Arijit Mahalanabis and vocalized by Gaurav Chanda with Mausam on tabla and Satyajit Limaye on the flute. Being a piece based only on swaras with no sahitya aiding the explanation of the unique theme, it was a challenge to the audience as well as the choreographer in terms of communication. The fact that it came across well was evident in the applause that followed. The touch of the expert was obvious in the vigorous and yet controlled nattuvangam of Joyce. 
The evening ended with a creative composition of Lion King presented entirely by the students. The chief guest of the evening was Spider Kedelsky, Director of Community Programs, Town Hall, Seattle. His speech was followed by an award ceremony for deserving students. 

It was a proud evening for the Indians of Seattle who have neither lost touch with their culture and tradition nor forgotten their commitment to it.  

Radha Janardhan is a roving writer as she keeps in touch with her interests of writing, music, dance etc moving along with her husband's work to different countries. In Dubai, she scripted and organized dance dramas for the Indian Consulate and began to contribute interviews and reviews for the paper Gulf news, Junior Gulf News and the Sony run TV magazine. She writes in Hindi also and has worked with some of the production houses in Chennai like the Krishnaswami Associates. Radha was awarded the best non Hindi poet's award from UP Hindi Sansthan.