Chakra Shri/CS Arts Theater presents its Series of Mini-Confluences: 
Bringing art to the audience
June 10, 2003  

Chakra Shri inaugurated its series of mini-Confluences in March.  These shows grew out of the institution’s larger Confluence shows, which are a collection of performance styles from around the world presented in one event, thus a ‘confluence’ of art.  The series has been successfully co-sponsored by the Queens Council of the Arts for the past year and a half. 
The March Confluence featured Chakra Shri’s own student, Sonali Shroff, who performed a Todai Mangalam, raagam Mallika, taalam Mallika, and a Sankirna Alarippu.  The dance was choreographed by Smt.Tejaswini Raj, who did the difficult, but beautiful job of playing nattuvangam as well as providing the vocals.   The mridangam was played effortlessly by A.R. Balaskandan.  The dance was followed by a modern improvisational piece by another of Chakra Shri’s students, Maura Lee.  She performed energetically to Balaskandan’s mridangam.  The performances were followed by a lively discussion about Charka Shri’s work in Queens, the presentation of Bharatanatyam to secular audiences in New York, and strategies to attract diverse venues and audiences.
The April Confluence was marked by performances by artists outside of Chakra Shri.  Mohan Kulasingam, a Bharatanatyam/modern dancer, studied Bharatanatyam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is now based in New York.  He presented an energetic varanam, Swami Naan Undhan Adimai in raagam Natai Kuranji, taalam Adi, composed by Papanasam Sivam, depicting the power and majesty of Lord Shiva. Mohan’s nritta was crisp and his jatis were dynamic as he imbibed the energy of Shiva through his vivacious stage presence. Mohan’s music was arranged by himself, and he also played the nattuvangam in the recording.  The dance was followed by an interactive theatrical presentation by Diane Henry.  Diane is an actor based in New York.  She has worked with Chakra Shri in the past, playing the role of Mother in the CS Arts’s production of Heer Ranjha.  Diane performed a monologue from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  The audience took turns reading various roles, and had an opportunity to engage in the acting process. The post-dialogue concerned the history of Bharatanatyam, links between Bharatanatyam and modern dance. Issues of acting were discussed, which related to both theatrical work as well as Bharatanatyam, specifically whether performers ought to acknowledge the audience or not in a staged presentation. 
Audiences were privileged to see a rare Kathakali performance outside of India, by artist Sadanam Ravi, for the third mini-Confluence on May 24th.  He performed Bhagasuravadam, scenes from the Mahabharata, where he played Bhima, imploring his brother Yudhishthira to kill the Rakshasa (demon) Bhagasura.  Ravi was bedecked in a colorful dress, typical of Kathakali dance, a full round skirt made of a sari, adorned with bright gold jewelry and full Kathakali makeup and headdress specific to the character he portrayed.  He explained in detail how the makeup is applied, as well as the significance of the colors (here his makeup was according to a Pachavasham, or green character).  Ravi’s performance was riveting in his ability to manipulate the slightest facial muscle, evoking Ravi also described the rigorous training that a Kathakali artist must undergo, including daily body massages which loosen muscles painfully, as well as intensive martial arts (Kalariyapattu) training.

Sridhar Shanmugham, founder and director of Chakra Shri performed a moving piece to the music of M. Balamuralikrishna, “Krishan Radhika.”  Sridhar beautifully depicted the longing between Radha and Krishna in the foreground while Craig Kaufman and Maura Lee represented the male and female energies in the eternal search for one another.  After the performances, Sadanam again gave a demonstration of the facial nuances that are unique to Kathakali.  He presented the navarasa, as well as scenes from the Ramayana.  
The Chakra Shri mini-Confluences have brought together multifaceted artists representing many genres.  The work that has been presented ranges from centuries-old traditional forms to newer experimental works.  Audiences have had the opportunity to be a part of the performance, viewing it at a proximity not found at conventional performances.  Intimacy is also fostered between the audience and artist, offering the audience special insight into the work, the artist and the artistic process.  The Confluence series is unique and has succeeded in bringing artist and audience together.