Natanakairali MohiniattamTroupe enjoys cultural exchange program
Photos courtesy: Natanakairali

September 25, 2010

Mohiniattam exponent, research scholar and choreographer Guru Nirmala Paniker and her three disciples Sandra Pisharody, Umadevi and Sudharma spent 19 days in Japan in the first Japan Kerala cultural exchange for young artistes 2010. The three young dancers are studying in class X. They have been learning Mohiniattam under Nirmala Paniker at Natanakaisiki Mohiniyatta Gurukulam of Natanakairali since 2000. The Japan - Kerala cultural event started on 21stAugust with the program of All Japan Children Folk Dance Festival at Nihon-Seinenkan Hall.
The Mohiniattam troupe visited many schools and had cultural exchange programs. Odawara City Hall, Kitazava Town Hall, Fukagava Museum, Mushika Kaikan, Masutomi Kouru are a few other places where they presented Mohiniattam. They also had the chance to learn the basics of Bun Raku puppetry, Kotho music of Japan, piano music, traditional bamboo music etc. The three young artistes were thrilled and share their experiences.

Mohiniattam workshop conducted by Nirmala Paniker
Sandra, Sudharma and Umadevi
"After every program, they asked us to share our experiences with them. I talked a few times before a huge audience. It was the first time that I spoke before people in such a big auditorium. Before the performance, there was a rehearsal of that program on stage. That is uncommon in Kerala. The respect they give artistes is very good. The Japanese audiences were keenly looking at our art forms and trying to study Mohiniattam. We gave 7 demonstrations and six stage performances. It was a great experience for me," says Sudharma, a class ten student of Bhavans, Irinjalakuda.

"On August 21, we had our first performance in Japan. It was a festival of students. There were hundreds of children, who performed with us. Some of them really amazed me by their performance and talent. We had a mind blowing experience with the people who taught us Japanese 'Otomo Bun-Rako' traditional puppetry done by girls only. The next day they learnt some basic steps of Mohiniattam which is a Kerala art form. It was a different experience for them as well as us. When you see Mohiniattam, it is very graceful, beautiful and swinging and swaying but practically very difficult to learn. They arranged Kotho classes (stringed instrument like our veena) and piano classes too. It was an unforgettable experience and informative. What more can I say? To spend nearly 3 weeks in evergreen Japan was a dream come true for me. I must thank my Mohiniattam Guru Nirmala Paniker, my school (National School, Irinjalakuda) for giving me leave to attend the festival, and my parents for supporting me so much," says Sandra Pisharody.

Natanakaisiki troupe in the Bun-Raku workshop
Young Japanese girls practising 'Kummi' (Thiruvathirakali)
"In Japan, I learned a lot of things. First is the respect that they give to their language, art forms, and their culture. Also, they appreciated our art forms and artistes too. The audience in Japan was very supportive and encouraging. It was amazing to see that how beautifully they obey the traffic rules, and as a result hardly any accidents. We stayed for 3 days at Kyoto city. We had a very informative visit to Okazaki Castle. It encased the beauty and culture of ancient Japan. We had the fortune to see the Tokyo Tower and Mount Fujiyama. I am really thankful to my school, my Mohiniattam teacher Nirmala Paniker and my parents," says Umadevi Animangalam.