Soorya Foundation curates 2 Indian classical dance festivals in the US
- Latha Pai, Los Angeles (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Navajyoti Donti, Atlanta (email@example.com)
Photos courtesy: Soorya Foundation for Performing Arts
May 17, 2023
Soorya Foundation for Performing Arts recently curated two Indian classical dance festivals in the USA, in Los Angeles and Atlanta, featuring over 225 trained Indian classical dancers and 11 Indian classical dance companies. The event honored two renowned gurus for their contribution to Indian classical dance in the USA for the last 4 decades.
Soorya Foundation prides itself in creating a platform for young and professional classical dancers and dance companies that have learnt dance in the US, and invites senior dance gurus for performances, lecture demonstrations and master classes. It is a nonprofit organization established in 2018 in Los Angeles and 2020 in Atlanta.
Los Angeles Indian Dance Festival (LAIDF)
The sixth edition of the LAIDF featured performances by award winning dance companies Navarasa Dance Theater of Aparna Sindhoor and Anil Natyaveda, Shakti School of Bharatanatyam and Kathak Kala Academy. Padmini Sirish, a renowned soloist from North CA presented her solo Bharatanatyam performance, a varnam in Reeti Gowla.
Soorya dancers presented their work "Shree - three Shakti," a presentation on the female trinities Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Parvathi. Conceptualized, choreographed and music composition by Guru Sushma Mohan, this piece was based on popular numbers like Bhagyada Lakshmi baramma, Mamavathu Sri Saswathi and interlaced with Om Aaaim Hreem Shreem, the origin of human sounds.
Kathak Kala Academy
Shakti School of Bharatanatyam
Kathak Kala Academy presented traditional Kathak numbers Shiva Stuti, ashta mangal and Rangi Saari - Dadra. Shakti Dance Company got a standing ovation for their foot tapping invocatory rhythmic pieces of todayam, Ganesha stuti and a jugalbandhi of mridangam chollus and dancer's footwork.
Navarasa Dance Theater of Aparna Sindhoor and Anil Natyaveda renowned for their experimental works, presented their newest work 'These Poems, These Songs, These Dances.' This dance theater work inspired by poems by June Jordan and S.M. Raju explores the beauty of art that rises above everything in times of great need. It is an artistic response to abuse and body shaming, questioning the lines that women must cross each day to live and thrive. Original music for this work is by George Brooks and original movement vocabulary was created by Sindhoor and Natyaveda (inspired by Indian classical dances, Indian martial art Kalari along with live singing).
Navarasa Dance Theater
Guru Viji Prakash honored
Guru Viji Prakash of Shakti School of Bharatanatyam was honored for her lifetime achievement. An acclaimed dancer, choreographer, and teacher of Bharatanatyam, she has been hailed as a pioneer in teaching, performing and presentation of Bharatanatyam in the USA. Viji established the Shakti School of Bharatanatyam in Los Angeles in 1977 with five centers in Southern California, which continue to thrive today. Guru Viji (or Viji aunty) was encouraged and cheered by her many admirers and students as she received the award.
North Georgia Indian Dance festival (NGIDF)
The fourth edition of the NGIDF featured more than 130 classical dancers and musicians and 7 dance and music companies and schools from Georgia, Alabama, and Philadelphia. The three and half-hour event attracted people from all over Metro Atlanta, North GA, South Carolina, and Alabama.
Guru Sheila Rubin honored
Soorya Foundation honored Guru Sheila Rubin of Natyananda School and dance company, Alabama, for her lifetime achievement to Indian dance in the US. An American by birth, Sheila learnt Indian classical dance in the 70s and 80s in South India and established her school in Alabama in 1978.
Georgia senator Shawn Still inaugurated the North Georgia Indian Dance Festival and appreciated the efforts of Soorya Foundation and its founder Guru Sushma Mohan in bringing the community together with their traditional Indian dance festival. He stressed the need for such festivals as it highlights the rich Indian culture and arts and encourages young Indian Americans. Senator Still was highly appreciative of the Indian community and stated that, though the Indian community was only 1% of the total population of GA, they represent 6% of taxpayers.
Natyananda Dance Company
Young students from Rama Atlanta chanted Sanskrit mantra praying for peace and knowledge while the senator lit the traditional lamp signifying the inauguration of the festival. The popular Three Aksha Dance Company, a 15-member group, had traveled from Philadelphia to perform at the event. Natyananda Dance Company from Alabama performed to a standing ovation while local GA dance companies - Deeksha School of Performing Arts, Samyuktam Natya Academy, Nrithya Samarpanam, and the host - Soorya Dance and music ensemble impressed the audience with their performances.
The festival had a delightful combination of traditional and popular numbers such as Bho Shambho and Dashavataara presented by Nrithya Samarpanam, Kolatam and Kavadi Chindu folk dances of South India by students of Samyuktam Natya Academy, Kali Stuti and invocatory songs on Ganesha, Saraswati, and Shiva by the Natyananda Dance Company and traditional Pushpanjali, Natesha Kautvam and Deva Stuti by Soorya Dance Ensemble.
Deeksha Dance Company
Deeksha School of Performing Arts and Three Aksha Dance Company featured classical contemporary presentations. Deeksha dancers begin their presentation with the sacred "Moola Mantra" - the powerful universal invocation of the One Divine presence followed by the traditional "Dhyana Shloka" - Aangikam Bhuvanam Yasya. The dancers continued with a showcase of nritta through a fast-paced series of jathis woven beautifully into swaras with percussion beats. They concluded their presentation with Rain Dance - a striking composition of MS Sukhi which depicts rain that keeps the cycle of life going. It also depicts the indomitable human spirit that continues to rise to all obstacles every day. The choreography of the dances was by Gurus Saroja Vaidyanathan and Anupa Thakurta.
Three Aksha began their showcase with Krishnanjali in raga Revagupthi and interweaved with Sumukha, a popular composition of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in praise of lord Ganesha, an elephant headed lord, remover of all obstacles. The captivating Jai Durgae Navadurgae, a dance piece on Navadurga, symbolizing nine forms of Adishakti was followed by Guru stotram. Three Aksha concluded with Utsav, a celebration of pure dance, facial expressions, nature, music to bring that joy back to the world. Guru Viji Rao's original choreography and delightful music by Praveen D Rao and Chandrasekhar Jois was noteworthy.
Three Aksha Dance Company
The dignitaries that attended the event were Veena Rao, author, and editor NRI Pulse, Guru Revathi Satyu, and many local Indian dance and music teachers. The activities and projects of Soorya Foundation are supported by the Georgia Council for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts and the Forsyth County Arts Alliance in Georgia, and the California Arts Council, City of Los Angeles - Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture in Los Angeles.
Latha Pai is a parent volunteer and an architect in Los Angeles. She has learnt Bharatanatyam and actively volunteers in Indian associations in LA.
Navajyoti volunteers at Indian events and performances in Atlanta. She has been actively engaged in the cultural scene of North GA for the last few years.