'Krishnaleelamrutham' - a fete in Bharatanatyam Down Under  
- Sumi Krishnan, Sydney  
e-mail: sumischoices@gmail.com 

October 10, 2008 
Padma Balakumar, the Founder and Artistic Director of Nrityagriha School of Dance, presented the stories of Krishna in Krishnaleelamrutham to a packed hall on 6th September 2008 at the Science Theatre, University of NSW, Kensington, NSW. 
Padma Balakumar, student of Malathi Srinivasan, a senior shishya of Rukmini Devi of Kalakshetra and KN Dandayuthapani Pillai, brings their influences in her unique style of Bharatanatyam that is beautiful and enthralling. Krishnaleelamrutham was a spectacular exciting venture into the arena of producing for Padma who successfully brought to fore the talents of four of her senior students, Malavika Mukunda, Bhavya Bharadwaj, Vasudha Shivram, Sruthi Ravi and twenty nine other students of ages ranging from 8 to over forty.  

The pace for the entire evening was established by Padma and her four senior students in the offering of flowers in Pushpanjali preceded by the expressive commentary in English by Rama Vishwanathan, which helped the flow of stories through the evening. With captivating and colorful costumes in conjunction with the perfectly synchronised expressions, movements, mood and footsteps, the five dancers grabbed the attention of the audience to be carried through out the performance. 
Thus the story of Krishna unfolded, presided over by none other than the Multicultural Affairs Minister, Laurie Ferguson, who later handed over a cheque of $6000 to the Sri Venkateswara Temple from funds raised by Padma Balakumar and the many volunteers who helped make the unraveling of the magical stories of Lord Krishna a roaring success. 

Padma says she owes it to her mother Mrs. Santhanam for all the help with the selection of the songs for the production. She says, "Music for the entire production was the most important aspect of the show and great attention went from the selection of the songs to their recording with the help of musicians in Sydney." Whilst there were some familiar songs like "Adharam Madhuram Vadanam Madhuram" from Madhurashtakam, compositions of composers such as Narayanatheerthar, Purandara Dasar, verses from Thiruppavai,  Periasamy Thooran and of course Ashtapadi were chosen to connect lyrics to the story, naadam to bhaavam, rhythm to steps.  

With a smile, Padma says that she has worked particularly hard to ensure that the children, all first generation Indians, understood every word of the songs so that it helped all the dancers express and emote the story, at the same time instill in them an uncompromising attention to hand and leg movements.  

As the story evolved, from the birth of Krishna in the prison to being raised in the loving lap of Yashodha, Padma's solo piece to the song "Oruthy magannaay piranthu" set the standard for the evening. Krishna's beauty, in "Adharam Madhuram," his mirth and mischief in "Vennai Undu" whilst he steals butter with his friends, his naughty pranks in "Thottu Thottu Pesavaraan," "Govardhana Giridhari" depicting Krishna as the majestic conqueror winning the hearts of the people of Mathura, were beautifully depicted by all the children along with one senior student in each piece. 
But of course there was more to come, as the performance matured into brilliance in the presentation of "Aadithanoranga," the conquering of the poisonous snake Kalinga when Padma enters along with all the four gems in the production Malavika, Bhavya, Sruthi and Vasudha capturing each nuance together with intricate footwork, excellent choreography and sculpturesque poses to the voice of Sydney vocalist Prema Ananthakrishnan. 
To the dancers from the over 40 group, congratulations are due. They kept in step with the young ones with equal proficiency and danced expertly to the 'show of seasons' and the 'Rasaleela,' showcasing the youthful and romantic play between Krishna and his consort Radha, choreographed in a free format style. 

Through out the entire evening the senior students played various roles. Vasudha's dance as a peacock, as elephant Gajendra, as an evil Kaurava, was depicted very successfully. Malavika's various roles, as mother Yashodha, as Krishna, as Yudhishtra, as Narasimha was impressive and brought out her calibre as a talented dancer to the fore. Bhavya's footwork and overall performance was unmistakably involving. Sruthi's display of motherly love in the solo item of "Yashodha Hari" was unforgettable. The lighting effects provided for a lullaby expertly managed by Deepika and another Bharatanatyam exponent and teacher, Hamsa Venkat added the right effect to the dance and the stage decor provided by Revathi. 
Producing a show abroad makes managers, marketers and builders, of teachers who would otherwise have been content to concentrate on their makeup and choreography of the dance. To complete a production successfully requires talent, a lot of good luck but most of all, it requires a determination to see it through. Padma says, 'I thank the entire Nrityagriha team, who have been there every step of the way with me. I cannot thank our sponsors enough." 

The best is always left to the last. To the chorus sung by Prema Ananthakrishnan and Eashwaran accompanied by Balaji on violin, Iyankaran on flute, Bala Sankar on mridangam, "Krishnam Kalayasakhi" made for a befitting colorful finale bringing the inclusion of an interesting jathi, seeing dancers weave their movements with and without each other with such harmony that it was enrapturing. 

Sumi Krishnan is a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com