Indian dances shine at World on Stage - The 2010, Spring Dance Festival
- Harish Krishnan
Image credits: Meiyappan & Chokku Manian

May 16, 2010

On 24th April 2010, Stamford, Connecticut resounded to the beats and rhythms of performers from around the world. On that evening, dance companies and artistes from diverse ethnic backgrounds performed on stage, thanks to Namaskaar Foundation and their initiative to bring different dance forms to international audiences. The packed audience of close to 1500 at Palace Theatre, Stamford, feasted on diverse dance genres from around the world.

The audience was welcomed by the Ukrainian Pryvit, followed by the Ram and Sita dance duet from Bali, Indonesia. Each of these dance pieces set the mood for the entire evening with their unique style. Later in the evening, the Paso Doble depicting the traditional bull fighting sequence in Spain, and led by a woman in her 90’s, enthralled one and all. One would be hard pressed to guess her age if one was to go by her beautiful and graceful dance moves.

It was followed by Thillana, a Bharatanatyam recital by Swathi Kamakshi Ravi and her troupe from Massachusetts. Set in the raga of Sumanesha Ranjani, the performers sought to invoke the blessings of Lord Nataraja; considered the original preceptor of Indian dances. The elegant and well synchronized dance item was marked by the performers’ rich dance costumes that left an unmistakable impression on the audience.

Japanese Sakura or the cherry blossom dance that signifies the oncoming of spring was unique in its tempo. Japanese dance, consists of movements requiring bent knees and a low center of gravity. This emphasis on being close to the ground shows the desire of Japanese dancers to remain in contact with the earth - the constant source of their energy. This distinctive style was also seen during their presentation of the Japanese dance form of Sakura Gari or Cherry Blossom Hunting.

Barvinok, the Ukrainian dance company’s sense of style was brilliant to say the least, which was seen in all its glory during the course of many of their dance pieces. There were moments of nuanced dance moves; of exquisite, fast little jumps; of acrobatically accented positions; of changing group formations, and more. The Ukrainian dance company seen in the picture, lit the stage with their multiple ensembles throughout the evening.

Swathi and her fellow artistes from New York brought to stage one of the most unforgettable moments in Ramayana of Ravana’s kidnapping of Sita and the eagle Jatayu’s vain attempt in preventing the same. The ensemble choreographed by Swathi and James Atkinson was a stylish, contemporary and a modern take on the timeless scene from Ramayana; produced by combining different elements of Modern Dance, Ballet and Bharatanatyam. The facial expression and artistic movements of Bharatanatyam combined with the athletic grace of Ballet and Modern dance brought to life the different characters. This juxtaposition was set to soulful and stirring music which enthralled the audience. The choreography highlighted a unique genre of dance style; the combination of Indian and Western dance forms, the fusion of spiritual and expressive dance routines and a form of storytelling that transcends borders.

The audience was later wowed by the routine from Traditional Irish Dance Company. The dance troupe performed the Irish tap dance piece with great gusto and enthusiasm. Stomping of feet never looked so colorful, appealing and rhythmic! Decked in beautiful skirts, the dancers regaled their audience with their thoroughly accomplished performance.

Not to be outdone were two kids who performed the Mambo, a Cuban style dance much to the delight of the audience. The artistes had an incredible stage presence and moved with style and panache that was hard to beat and defied their age. Their twirls were precise; the angles accurate; and their overall moves fast, elegant and smooth. They had the crowd on their feet literally with their performance.

Swathi continued to regale the audience with her interesting and unique Indian dance styles. Later in the evening, along with her group from Massachusetts, she performed the Kummi, a south Indian folk dance traditionally played during harvest festivals in southern India. The joyful and playful mood of the music in conjunction with the folksy settings of this piece was evident both in the dance movements and attire of the performers. The choreography involved rigorous dance formations that were able to maintain the authenticity of the dance style.

One of the high points of the evening was the Indian dance medley set to the popular tunes from movies like Slum Dog Millionaire, Ashoka and Devdas. Dressed in chic blue, Swathi and her troupe put together a captivating repertoire of eye catching and brisk moves set to pulsating music that combined the best of Indian classical and folk dance vocabulary. The background score was able to maintain the mood and tempo of the piece during its entire duration. This dance routine walked the fine line of not looking like a typical Bollywood dance routine, by its ability to convey the same energy in a semi classical style.

Some of the other dance performances from countries like Haiti, Peru were noticeable by the slightly meandering and sometimes heavy handed nature of their narrative. There were times when the pieces seemed longer and the audio a little muted. However, those were simply minor quirks in an otherwise highly enjoyable and memorable evening for dance aficionados.

The author Harish Krishnan is a technology professional, Indian classical arts patron, blogger, freelance journalist residing in Palo Alto, California.