As published in India Currents
This evening promises to rouse dance patrons to alternatively tap to the pulsating beat of bharatanatyam, and sway to the lyrics of popular composers such as Bharathiyar, Tulsidas, Maharaja Swati Thirunal, and Annamacharya. The recital, “Rhythms and Melodies,” was choreographed by Malini Krishnamurthi.
It is said that dance is the music of the soul, and, in that light, “Rhythms and Melodies” is a soulful journey, while literally crossing barriers of language. The audience will hear musical treats in Tamil (Bharathiyar’s “Dhaga Dhaga” and “Vellai Thamarai”), Hindi (Swati Thirunal’s “Bansiwale” and Tulisdas’ “Thumaka Chalata”), and Telugu (a folk dance from Andhra Pradesh, set to lyrics by Annamacharya). As is typical to the bhakti bhava (spiritual mood) of a bharatanatyam presentation, this event has a sprinkling of devotionals dedicated to Lords Krishna, Rama, Balaji, and Goddess Parvathi.
What makes this annual presentation by the Natyanjali School of Dance unique is that Krishnamurthi has choreographed each piece as a taala (rhythm) and raga (melody) delight. “Many pieces have all the panchajathis (five rhythms, in patterns of 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9) woven into an intricate fabric, highlighting the mood and lyrics of each of the compositions,” says Krishnamurthi.
The backdrop of some of pieces is an already intricate jathi pattern, called the chapu, a truncated taala in a staccato rhythm, kind of like the clapping in flamenco dancing. The Bharathiyar piece, Dhaga Dhaga for example, has multiple rhythms integrated into a cohesive beat. The folksy Annamacharya piece has an earthy rhythm, a common man’s dance of bhakti to Lord Balaji.
Over 20 dancers from the school will be participating, making for colorful formations on stage. One can look forward to all the traditional formations in a bharatanatyam group choreography, such as the circle, criss-cross, and lines. Having more than one dancer on stage demands special attention to choreography, music, and lighting; the dancers are in constant repartee mode in their footwork, and when some strike dramatic poses, others punctuate them by a crescendo of footwork; yet another group will form a story backdrop.
Funds raised at Rhythms and Melodies will benefit Child Relief and You (CRY), as well as ongoing projects at Natyanjali. Indeed, dancing for a cause has become de rigueur at Natyanjali. Krishnamurthi feels passionately about social issues, and in the past, has raised funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
“Dance is my way of worship. The beauty of dance is its ability to transport one on to a world of divine bliss,” she says. With “Rhythms and Melodies,” in particular, she says, “I want to help the cause of children. I also wanted to give an opportunity to each of my young students to experience the joy of performing.
“I see the stage as an extended classroom. You cannot learn a performing art without performing it! The stage is where a dancer is born, and evolves.”
Aiding and abetting in the endeavor to take the audience on the blissful path will be the orchestra; Krishnamurthi will accompany on nattuvangam, Shrishuka Shikaripura on vocals, R. Srihari on mridangam and tabla, and R. Narasimhamurthy on flute.
Guru “Shingar Mani” (Jewel of Expressions) Krishnamurthi is known for her pioneering work of setting the Ragam Tanam Pallavi, an improvisational melody with few words, to bharatanatyam. This is uncommon in dance circles, where one usually sees pieces set to rehearsed, verse-oriented musical compositions. She has a deep understanding of music, being that she learnt both music and dance together. This combination makes for a unique approach to dancing, and one anticipates a skillful blend at the dance recital.
Krishnamurthi’s dedication to teaching children was recently lauded by the Malibu Hindu Temple, which conferred on her the title of “Asthana Vidushi” (Community Scholar/Teacher).
Sunday, June 28, 5:15 p.m. Campus Theater, Bldg. 1300, Fullerton College, 321 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. $15, $25, $550. (909) 861-8381, (909) 899-5961, (626) 844-02880 www.fullcoll.edu. firstname.lastname@example.org.