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Experiencing Natya Fest in Munich
- Dr. Martina Hamm
Photos: @shruthi.araadhya and @prajeesh_lights_colors

June 16, 2023

As a returning audience to the second year of 'Natya Fest-Feast of Indian Classical Dances', I reached the Kulturzentrum Trudering, Munich on May 27, 2023, twenty minutes ahead of the scheduled program beginning time. This was organised by Shubhada Subramanyam (Nityaa Arts Center) in association with The Consulate General of India, Munich. I was pleasantly surprised by the fully occupied auditorium and a considerable crowd still getting the tickets at the box office, I had to find a place in the first floor.

Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy
Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy

The program started on time, very crisp on-stage formalities and within 15mins the actual theatre began. Here I should mention, the background story, links and information sent by email a few days earlier was the saviour. The Mahabharata is very complex especially for a non-Indian, remembering the characters or understanding the story is too confusing for the first-time reader. I could get the context and the logic of certain presentations because of the information received earlier, but it kept me wondering how the more than 70% of the non-Indian crowd there, especially those who have walked directly through the box-office, are able to understand the presentation. Interestingly no one left the auditorium and there was always a grand applause at intermittent acts. Without doubt this should be credited to the extremely talented and graceful artist Dr.Vasundhara Doraswamy, who at the young age of 74 captured the attention as "Kshatra Draupadi" for a straight 1 hour 20 mins without exiting the stage! It was a treat watching her as she moved across, her feet commanding the rhythm, so strong yet so soft and there were surprising dance movements and poses. The unbraiding and braiding of the hair so naturally on stage left the audience awestruck. The story of Draupadi indeed is very powerful, the expressions of Dr.Doraswamy elicited emotions in the viewers and the eyes were moist. And I was convinced once again art has no language, culture, religion barrier.

The 15 min pause was much needed, also because one needs to reset the mind to watch something different after an absorbing 1.30hrs presentation. The second part of the program was a collaboration between 25 dancers based in Germany. There were totally 10 unique presentations, all of them bringing various colors, music, formations on stage making the whole evening very vibrant. Each one was unique, and the audience was introduced to different styles of Indian classical dances - Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kuchipudi. The Dashavatara story presented by Shubhada Subramanyam in Bharatanatyam style was impressive and gave an opportunity to learn the story.

The other presentations were Pushpanjali, Natesha Kautuvam, Brahmanjali, Jatiswaram, Vasant Pallavi, Padam (Natanam adinar and Theeratha villaiyattu pillai), Tarangam and Tillana. It is very remarkable that the dancers collaborated across cities in Germany and made these group presentations possible. I learnt that these are very traditional compositions in the repertoire of Indian classical dances and have been presented with the intention of bringing the actual Indian classical dance scene to Munich audience in a concert ambience.

Shubhada Subramanyam
Shubhada Subramanyam

Pushpanjali: Ananya Anant Rao, Gayatri Chavan, Rima Topagi, Rutuja Joshi, Sushma Bharadwaj, Thanya Sekhar, Vasanthi Swetha

Tarangam: Poornima Joseph, Haripriya Sirpa

Natesha Kautuvam
Natesha Kautuvam: Prateeksha, Dhevipriya

The program concluded with a heartfelt thanking note from Ms. Subramanyam. The event was curated very professionally, incorporating the feedbacks from previous year. The flashing mobiles in between was annoying as well as the kids let free to run around by few parents. Apart from these, it was a wonderful evening transporting the Munich audience to Indian classical dance world. No one would complain if the duration was a little shorter, but the full hall until the end and people lining up for photographs and wishes were a proof for the success of the event.

"The hard work behind the event has paid off. I am very happy we got support from the Kulturreferrat, München and the Indian Consulate. The intention of curating this event is to showcase the actual Indian classical dances here in Munich and open up the myriad possibilities of collaborations and cross projects with Indian classical dances staying well within its framework without diluting any of its aspects. I only hope it gets easier to reach interested and curious audience who appreciate the art forms," says Shubhada Subramanyam who is a full-time working Software professional and a mother of 2!

In my opinion, such events bring variety to the cultural space in Munich and also give an opportunity to witness veteran artists like Dr.Doraswamy. I do hope the experience this event has provided and also the increasing Indian diaspora in Germany would backup and support such future initiatives.

Dr. Martina Hamm is a microbiologist and a yoga enthusiast.

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