Double bill: Divine Stories and Mruchchakatika
- Donna Riesen & Pavan Kumar

October 27, 2012

Soorya Performing Arts and the Hindu Society of South California recently presented a double-bill.  I was impressed by the beauty of the presentation, the precision of the movements, and the great attention to detail, down to the movement of the eyes and joints of the fingers.  Every aspect of this recital was well planned, rehearsed, and performed.

In the first half, students of Soorya Performing Arts, Los Angeles, under the direction of Sushma Mohan presented a dance feature ‘Divine Stories’ featuring stories of gods and goddesses of Hinduism, chosen from the popular Srimad Bhagavatha. In the second half, Guru Prasanna Kasturi and his team of artistes from St. Louis and India presented ‘Mruchchakatika - The Little Clay Cart’ that has been on a US tour having performed at AKKA World Kannada conference, Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago.                   



‘Divine Stories’ began with a traditional Pushpanjali. The young dancers Apoorva, Jaya Madhuri, Tejaswini, Meenakshi, Sneha, Nikita, Sreeya and Shanmathi offered flowers to the dancing deity Nataraja and paid obeisance to the musicians and audience.  It continued to “Mudakaratha Modakam” a composition of Sankaracharya. The song described Ganesha as the joyous one who enjoys modakam (a sweet), who destroys evil, who shines like the morning sun and protects those who pray to him. The little dancers Srisahasra, Veda, Aditi, Ikshita, and Kritika did a good job of depicting the elephant faced lord of the Ganas. The students then presented pure techniques of Bharatanatyam in “Ra RaVenu,” a swarajathi. Simple choreography and basic adavu patterns by the tiny tots made the presentation an adorable one.

“Chitayaami Jagadamba,” a composition of Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar of Mysore in praise of goddess Chamundeshwari of Mysore was next on the repertoire. Senior students Yamuna and Soumya did a brilliant sanchaari of the mother goddess who was born out of the powers of all the gods and how she demolished the demon Mahisha.  The piece de resistance of the evening was the popular ‘Dasavatara’ written and set to music by Srivatsa (Bangalore). The ten incarnations taken by Vishnu to re-establish dharma or righteousness to destroy tyranny and  injustice on earth was presented well by all the dancers. The group choreography and selection of dancers befitting the role was done aptly by Guru Sushma Mohan.

Prasanna Kasturi

Pulikeshi Kasturi

In the second half of the program, Guru Prasanna Kasturi and his team of artistes from St. Louis and India presented ‘Mruchchakatika- The Little Clay Cart,’ a dance drama based on a 2nd century Sanskrit play. Conceived and choreographed by Prasanna Kasthuri, the dance drama succeeded in impressing the audience through its witty dialogues, dance sequences and a captivating story line. Guru Pulikeshi Kasturi who had specially been invited from India to play the role of Samsthaanaka proved his mastery over drama, expression and technique. Prasanna as Charudatta and Yamuna Mothikannan as Vasanthasena, charmed the audience with their outstanding performances. They were ably supported by Satyanarayana Murthy and Vasantha Murthy (stage artistes from India), Ramesh Thalli, Samanvita Kasturi and students of Sushma Mohan.

The whole evening was enhanced by a magnificent set of musicians. Sushma Mohan and Pulikeshi Kasturi provided the nattuvangam. Seema Murthy and Prasanna Kasturi on vocals, Ramesh Ramalingappa on mridangam, Jayaprakash Kannur on flute and Ganesh Kumar on violin teamed up for the successful show.  The costumes were colorful and enhanced the presentation.  It was truly a delight to attend this dance recital.
Donna Riesen is a certified teacher of music in piano, and holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance from the American Conservatory of Music. Pavan Kumar is an arts enthusiast and appreciates Indian dance and music.