The Rasika Dance Academy’s annual event is rich in Hindu mythology
Whenever evil threatens to consume the universe, benign forces of nature will inevitably rise to restore the balance of power.
Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanirbhavati bhaarata,
Abhyutthaanam dharmasya tadaatmanam srajaamyaham.
Continuing the legacy of the Vazhuvoor tradition, Rasika Dance Academy’s annual Bharatanatyam showcase Sri Chakra: When Gods Dance offered a profound interpretation of this underlying philosophy of Sanaatana Dharma.
“Immortalised in humanity’s oldest scriptures, weaving the concept into dance form and recreating this for stage, has always been close to my heart,” Rasika founder Manjula Viswanath told Indian Link.
“Each Avatar has a story of its own. The challenge to portray this in a ballet, working my way through the scenes and expressions is mind blowing to a dance teacher,” she explained.
From conceptualisation, choreography, costumes and stage décor, the sumptuously designed frames brought the story to life, recreating a little piece of heaven for the audience. Employing a combination of live and recorded music, the dual narrative technique of thematic margam and classical ballet provided infinite variety.
The evening’s performance at UNSW Science Theatre had two distinct segments, linked by the common theme. While Sri paid tribute to feminine energy both creative and destructive, Chakra explored the earthly manifestations of Vishnu as the preserver of life through his ten incarnations.
The Pushpanjali, Paapanasam Sivan’s invocation in Raagam Saraswati set the stage for the creative energies to flow. A medley of dedications highlighting the prowess of Devi as Sharade, Meenakshi, Sakthi and Kali followed. Both Shringapuradeeshwari, which extolled the artistic abilities of Saraswati, the patron deity of Sringeri, and Devi Neeye Thunai on the captivating Meenalochani celebrated the beauty and heritage of our ancient art forms. In contrast, the energetic pieces Siva Sakthi and the Ragamaalika on Kali, culminating in the immortal Mahishasura Mardhini stotram invigorated the audience with electrifying performances.
Incorporating emotive grace and supple movements with mathematical precision, the dancers displayed great sensitivity to thematic demands, weaving effortlessly through the broad spectrum of the repertoire. We have come to expect nothing but the very best from Rasika’s senior students – Madhu Jayaram, Lalitha Bala, Anjana Chandran, Aneetha Vytheeswaran and Shalaka Bodha. Inspired by their guru, they constantly push artistic boundaries while demonstrating technical prowess and extraordinary stamina, in turn serving as exemplary role models for the juniors. The symbiotic relationship shared by the extended Rasika family makes its productions an enriching experience.
Soul stirring vocals by Subha Harinath and Shruthi Balaji were supported by live orchestra comprising Balaji Jaganathan (violin), Sivakumar Sethupathi (mrudangam), Charou Ram (rhythm pad), Venkatesh (flute) and Saumya Sritharan (veenai), while Sruthi Krishnan and Lalitha Bala joined their guru Manjula as nattuvanars, providing direction for the segment on Sri.
An opulent rendering of Dashavataram kept the audience enthralled in the second half, offering a feast for the senses. Bangalore-based Balasubramanya Sharma’s vocal provided the perfect backdrop for the drama to unfold. The sheer diversity of the pieces challenged the capable dancers to give their very best, whether sculpture-esque postures, intricate footwork, emotive gestures or graceful movements.
Vying for attention were the elaborate props, the effective use of lighting and elegant couture, specially designed to add vibrancy to the rich tapestry on display. Accentuating the tempo of story-telling, they reflected the changing mood of each composition. The sheer depth and scale of the backstage operations speaks volumes of the dedication and commitment of Rasika’s extended army of volunteers.
“One cannot overemphasise the importance of props and costume for the success of a production. These critical pieces blend together with dance and have always been a trademark of my school Rasika Dance Academy. Just imagine 3 hours of continuous dance with costume changes that need to happen while the song is playing, where some dancers need to exit, coming back on stage in a completely different costume in less than a minute some times. This is where we work as a team that includes parents, who are the real heroes in my productions,” Manjula graciously acknowledged.
Experimenting both with themes and techniques, since its inception in 2003 Rasika has grown as a creative entity with a social purpose. Imbibing Guru Padmini Ravi’s ideology that tradition has infinite capacity to evolve and renew itself, Manjula has endowed a unique legacy of her own to her students in Sydney.
Like its predecessors, Sri Chakra once again raised substantial funds, this time for Northwest Disability Services.