Ancient dance tradition thrives on in Melbourne

First live concert of Narthana Sorubalaya Bharatanatyam School. FRANKEY FERNANDES reports.

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Dance performance

It was dazzling display of dance and discipline which left the audience mesmerized, as the Narthana Sorubalaya Bharatanatyam School in Melbourne showcased its very first live
concert in November at St Bernard’s College, Essendon.

It was a full-fledged classical dance concert that presented a ‘margam’ of items: a set of classical item usually presented in Bharatanatyam concerts (though, only half the ‘Varnam’ was presented at the event.) 

The captivating performance of the students displayed the dedication to the art as well as the strong relationship between teachers and students. The continuous applause by an enthralled audience was proof of the commendable performance of the dancers.
All students of the school featured in the seventh year concert. Four senior students received special awards: Tessa Shelly, Annmaria Sarish, Charvi Reddy Pillareddy, and Dheekshitha Vani Gorrepati. They were the original students who embarked on a journey of learning Bharatanatyam when the Narthana Sorubalaya Bharatanatyam School was established in Melbourne in 2012.

Bharatanatyam is an Indian classical dance form, presumably the oldest classical dance heritage of India. A Bharatanatyam performance is accompanied by vocalists, musicians and most significantly the guru, who directs and conducts the performance.
On this occasion, the music was provided by a renowned orchestra consisting on Balasri Rasiah (percussion), Ahilan Sivanandan (vocal), Sughosh Seetharam (violin), and the school’s artistic director and founder Ahalika Wickneswaran (nattuvangam).

Ahalika Wickneswaran told Indian Link, “We teach Bharatanatyam through the Kalakshetra’ style of learning and are focused on delivering engaging lessons that promote and challenge students to learn this divine art with increased dedication and commitment.” 
She added that the school prides itself on ‘reflective learning’, with the upholding of higher ideals and standards of expectations. Passion is its drive and resilience is its backbone,
she remarked.

Chief guest Shanthi Rajendran, a well-known dance authority in the community, must surely have felt glad to see the tradition continue on amongst the young students, in a land far from home.

For parent Naga Chakka, the time invested in bringing the kids to learn Bharatanatyam here is well spent. “The school plays an important role in educating my kids about our cultural traditions. The strong ‘guru-sishya’ relationship that is fostered between student and teacher is also of value as I see a holistic, overall development of my kids, alongside regular school and sport.”

Young dance performers on stage
Young dance performers on stage

The spirit of community that such activity enhances is another outcome with long-reaching effects, and of course, the pleasure of seeing the kids perform on stage at an event of this nature must be priceless.

Read also: A Bharatnatyam performance, classical Indian dance and its power to heal