Shakti Dance presented Meera as homage to Lakshmi Shankar
- Prem Souri Kishore
Pics: Surendra Prakash 

October 14, 2014

A moving tribute video to Lakshmi Shankar, the internationally acclaimed North Indian classical vocalist of Patiala gharana who recently passed away at the age of 87, ushered in the mesmerizing dance production of Meera, a Shakti School of Dance production to a rapt audience in James Armstrong Theater, Los Angeles.

Guru Viji Prakash, the innovative choreographer and teacher of Bharatanatyam in Los Angeles for 37 years, co-produced Meera with daughter Mythili Prakash who is recognized as one of the leading exponents of Bharatanatyam. Mythili is under the mentorship of the celebrated Malavika Sarukkai. The mother and daughter united to bring the story of the sublime songstress by showcasing the haunting story and drawing on the rich heritage of Meera’s bhajans. Choreographer Mythili used space, dance, rhythm, gorgeous harmonies and drama with extraordinary instinct and made it a seamless, searching exploration of the single minded devotion of Meera.

A Shakti production is always an event and the Meera narrative portrayed the fusing of the cerebral with the visceral. Thus the expectations and realities of the life of the poetess was tenderly and heartbreakingly personal.There is a timelessness, enigma and mystery of divine love in the story of Meera and it is this essence of an unusual saint who lived in 1500 AD that Mythili Prakash brought to the stage. The dances were brilliantly executed and must be lauded for their visual power. It was the perfect vibrant homage to Lakshmi Shankar.

The story of Meera both clarified and complicated with classical and folk dances in constant dialogue giving texture to the story. Mythili redefined the possibilities of dance and theater. Innovative casting, flawless direction charted the epic journey of Meera, capturing an elegiac exploration of a passionate young Rajasthani woman from a royal family who rebelled against tradition and became an inspired poetess. Mythili imaginatively conceived the powerful presentation of Meera and Krishna through different stages in their lives by using dancers who gave compelling performances. The final scene where Meera attains union with her divine Krishna was moving.

The singers and musicians were the focus of attention at all times where the melodic line was drawn through diverse styles of Carnatic, Hindustani and Rajasthani folk ballads. The music of Lakshmi Shankar, Shubho Shankar and Janhavi Jayprakash stirred the senses and resonated the bhakti movement. Almost 1300 bhajans are attributed to Meera. The ensemble collaborating with Viji and Mythili selected simple outpourings of a heart dedicated to Krishna. Explicit, rhythmic, suggestive and often times a bold statement portraying and framing the introspective  mind and being of a woman who was filled with an intense reverence for her God.

The musicians were Vaijayanthi Gopinath, Samar Das, Vanathy Raghuraman, Dayita Datta, Mahesh Swamy, Lingaraju, Krishna Kumar and Venkatesh Krishnan. A rich array of glittering costumes, melodious music, and the drama of folk and classical dances brought the characters alive. The Garba dance was choreographed by Aakansha Maheshwari who made it a feisty, explosive burst of whirling, swirl of color and flash of movement. 

Uma Kadekodi as Meera expressively embodied the devotee. Malini Taneja as the young prince Rana Bhoj and brother Ranan Vikramjit and Kirti Rao as Krishna were riveting and as the suspicious sister-in-law Uda Bai, Malini Iyer gave a compelling portrayal. Roshni Badlani and Janani Kalyan danced the roles of the young Meera with grace and devotion.