Dances of joy  
- Lalitha Venkat, Chennai 
October 22, 2007 

Sunday mornings are usually relaxation times, when most people sit glued to their TV sets, so it was a pleasant surprise to see an overflowing Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan on Oct 14, 2007. It was the premiere show of Creative Connections 2007 International Young Performers Tour, with a group of twelve talented 12 to 18 year olds, hand picked by The Dhananjayans. They have been training rigorously under the guidance of Sumathi Sriram and Divya Shiva, senior disciples of the Dhananjayans and teachers at Bharatakalanjali.  

As we looked at our watches, guru Dhananjayan started the program on the dot of 10.30am. The presentation included folk dances of India, animal and mythological stories and classical Bharatanatyam repertoire. The classical items were on Shakti and a Swati Tirunal composition 'Chaliye Kunjanamo.' The Mohini-Bhasmasura story is about how Mohini uses her charm to save Lord Shiva after he gave a boon without thinking of the consequences, to the demon Bhasmasura. Lord Vishnu transforms himself into the beautiful Mohini and the deception was enacted with clever use of a tirashila. Punyakoti is the story of a cow and tiger. Caught by the tiger, the cow agrees to feed her calf, return to become the tiger's meat and comes back as promised. Impressed by her honesty, the tiger lets her go free. Masks were used for the characters and some kalari movements for the tiger character.  

Mohini-Bhasmasura story
Mohini-Bhasmasura story
Some dancers are multi-talented as was demonstrated by the presentation of a Carnatic music number. Sachin Damianose gave a brief demonstration of kalari movements. While the classical pieces were performed mainly by Sumathi and Divya, the younger students let go in the folk items.  
Dandiya from Gujarat, Santal from West Bengal, Kurathikummi from Tamilnadu and the vibrant finale number Bhangra from Punjab saw the stage in a blaze of colorful costumes and accessories, foot tapping music and vibrant movements of the dancers who seemed to enjoy every minute on stage. The somersaults and energetic moves of Bhangra had the audience cheering loudly even as the young dancers invited the audience to clap and sing along. The quick changes in costume, brief explanations and smooth presentation were salient points of the program, while the highlight was the joy of the performers as well as audience!  
The chief guest of the program, David Hopper, the US Consul General in Chennai, summed up the program in one word, "Wow!" that surely found an echo in all those present.  

The music has been composed by young Karthik Jayaraman, grandson of mridangam vidwan TK Murthy. The beautiful, colorful costumes are by Uma Dresses. The young dancers on the US tour include: Yatin Agarwal (disciple of Anita Guha), Gautam Gopalakrishnan (disciple of Hariharan), Sachin Damianose (disciple of Kalari guru Shaji), Hariganesh Muralidharan (disciple of Shobana Balchander), Dasarathi Varatharajan (disciple of Sivakumar),  Krupaa Lakshmi  Visweswara (disciple of Shobana Balchander), Aarabhi Badri (disciple of Radhika Shurjit), Krithika Shurajit (disciple of Shobana), Reshma Malliknath, Swapna Sridharan and Priyanka Ganesh of Bharatakalanjali, Madhavi Chandran (disciple of Girija Chandran and Dhananjayans).  

Children from different countries have much to learn about and appreciate in other cultures and Creative Connections uses art to enhance such cultural awareness among children. Sumathi Sriram and Divya Shiva will perform, give lecture/demonstrations and perform with the young dancers between Oct 20 and Nov 11 when they will visit and interact with school children of the Tri-State of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the US.