Natya Dance Conference 
- Anusha Nathan

April 24, 2009 

On March 14, 2009 a very adroit man by the name of Prasanna Kasturi got involved in his own extemporaneous performance as he explained Geya-Nrutya, singing as well as dancing.  On that day, my eyes widened and my brain enlarged so that it could take in all of the information and knowledge, complex yet intelligible that was being handed down to all of the members of the audience, including me. 

Geya-Nrutya, as Prasanna Kasturi explained is a combination of singing and dancing. 'Geya,' means song and 'Nrutya' means dance. Through the generations, people have lost the ability to do just that. During his performance, Prasanna Kasturi explained how he was trying to bring back Geya-Nrutya, and why it is so important to be able to do that. Imagine a world with only tape and CD players, no singing, and nobody who could sing. There would then be no natural talent floating around in the air, and everyone would have to dance to a voice in a box. Dance is only complete with a voice, a voice that can be heard as well as felt.  
Prasanna Kasturi welcomed an audience member to the stage and asked for an ordinary sentence. As a reply, she said, "By the fireside, in the glistening light." With only a couple of seconds to ponder, Prasanna Kasturi, Sandhya Srinath and Srinath Bala came up with a tune in the raagam of Mohanam.  In the blink of an eye, he immediately put the sentence to a tune with different swaras, which the orchestra had to immediately pick up, and they did. After listening to the tune for about a line, Prasanna Kasturi started singing, "By the fireside, in the glistening light." I especially liked the way he did this because he showed that anything, even American lyrics can be put to any raagam in Carnatic music.  After a few lines of the actual 'song' part, he added some swaras and formed them into a jathi. To dance to the jathi, he did some Bharatanatyam steps such as "thai thai dith dith thai tham," and other common, well known steps. Watching him perform with absolutely no preparation was a miracle coming to life. 
However, before the girl came to the stage, he danced to a song he already had in mind. When I listened to him sing, I could feel what he was trying to imply, not only through his dance, but also through his voice. The way he sang, placid and serene, an everyday, ordinary person could figure out the type of emotion he was trying to get through to the audience. Watching him dance and sing, I thought to myself, "Why does he sometimes stop in between?" Later, as he progressed in his dance, I learned that singing and dancing together is quite tiring, and it requires a lot of effort, determination, and inner talent. 
In this section of the Natya Dance Conference, I really enjoyed the way Prasanna Kasturi explained his information. He didn't speak as if he were talking to a group of adults, using terminology that most children probably wouldn't understand, but he spoke as if he were talking to everyone. He spoke casually, which made it very intelligible to many of the younger children in the audience. 
Prasanna Kasturi's expressions were even more impressive than his footwork. Along with the steps on the floor and the lifting of his legs into the air, the movements of his eyes and other features of his face really spoke to me. Through him, I felt as if I really could reach God, and that is the ultimate goal of any dancer.

Anusha Nathan is a 12 year old dance student who attended Prasanna Kasthuri's lecture-demonstration on Geya-Nrutya. Prasanna was speaking at the Natya Dance Conference 2009 organised in Maryland by Jayamangala, and supported by the Towson University, Maryland.