Karnataka Vaibhava in St.Louis  
by Lukshmi Mohan, St. Louis, MO 
e-mail: lukshmimohan@hotmail.com 
April 16, 2003   

More than 30 Dancers, singers and actors got together on the same stage last week in St. Louis, Missouri to celebrate the Hindu New Year (Ugadi) by presenting “Karnataka Vaibhava” a stage presentation in the unique “Natya” style. The event was organized by “Sangama” the Kannada Association of St.Louis and co-organised by “Soorya Dance Company”.  History unfolded itself through the 90 minute long musical dance drama.  

“Karnataka Vaibhava” narrates the story of how the land of Karnataka was ruled by various kings and how it came to be formed into the present state that we see today. The sutradhara and the Nati, who started with the greeting of the audience and introduction of the artists to the audience in the traditional way, allowed the stage to be taken over by the singers who sang a popular Kannada patriotic song written by National poet laureate Kuvempu. The dancers then began their performance depicting stories from the first Kannada king MayuraVarma, followed by stories of different Kannada dynasties - the Chalukya, Rashtrakoota, Hoysala, Krishnadevaraaya, Tipu Sultan, the freedom struggle movement and the formation of the present Karnataka. Using dialogues and drama inbetween made the ballet much livelier and more appealing to the non-classical crowd and gave the drama artists a wonderful opportunity to work with dancers and vice versa.  

Led by Seema Murthy, the singers sang a wide selection of songs from Carnatic classical to Hindustani classical music. The dancers of Soorya Dance Company performed in both Bharatanatyam and Kathak dance forms and delighted the audience. 
“The bringing together of so many Kannada speaking people (which comparatively is a thinly populated group in the mid-west) was our achievement” says Prasanna Kasthuri who conceptualized, choreographed and narrated the whole dance drama. Kannada speaking population being a sizeable population, “This is a difficult project” accepted the organizer.  

Prasanna Kasthuri is the founder-director of Soorya Dance Company. The company teaches Bharathanatyam, Kathak and Carnatic music in St. Louis, Columbia and New Jersey.