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300 Kalakars at their Dazzling Best

July 2006
300 Kalakars at their Dazzling Best

It could have competed with the top notch professionally choreographed shows from Bollywood or a classical dance festival in India, and come out tops. Indeed the sold out, Annual recital of Kruti Dance Academy headed by the effervescent Dina Sheth was music, dance and professionalism at its best.

"In the 11 years that I have presented our annual recital we have always started on the dot," says Dina, and on the dot it was, as Atlanta Symphony Hall's beautifully decorated spacious stage came alive on June 4th 2006 at 2 p.m. For the next 4 hours, the audience was dazzled by some of what was learnt at the Academy, in a presentation that was sheer elegance, style and pizzazz.

"To have 300 kids present items that are the right length, and still highlight what they have learnt, and make sure the audience doesn't get bored is a lot of work," says Dina

The theme for this year was "Kalakaar-a true artist." 300 young artists from all age groups presented a taste of classical and modern India through dance.Flowing parallel with the display of dazzling footwork, and melody were sentiments shared by several students who had been trained in the academy. Each talked about what it meant being an artist, and also, "Dina aunty," as she is affectionately known,, had meant to them.

The show was split into four segments:Bal Kanya Kalakar, Bollywood Balak, Navyowan Kalakaar and Aaj Ke Kalakar. Shemoni Sheth, the very talented daughter of Dina and a graduate of the academy explained what was being shown in the four segments.

The first segment Bal Kanya Kalakaars, demonstrated the young beginners' initial grasp of intricate dance movements. Bollywood Balaak, showcased ways with which the young dancers creatively applied their acquired skills to modern Bollywood moves. In Bollywood Balaak, the compositions were based on hit film songs, like Lucky Lips, Just Chill, Chori Chori, Kiss me Baby, and Bindas, ending with the Bollywood finale where all artists sashayed on and off the stage in a fluid continuation.Nav Yowan Kalakaars?? showcased the growth of the dancer to a higher level and those numbers were choreographed in classical style with beams of fusion lighting up the stage.

Aaj Ke Kalakaar was a representation of the "fully developed artiste'. The choreography, said Shemoni was built on a classical foundation but exposed through modern Bollywood renditions.

The four segments encapsulated the beauty of Bharat natyam, the ear pleasing vocal renditions of Indian classical music, the lilt of hip hop Bollywood style, the fragrance of the folk dance of Punjab, the Bhangra, and the essence of Holi, the festival of colors that was captured with frolic, melody, colorful props, a little Krishna with his Radha, a village belle being swept off her feet as her beau rode across the stage on a bike with her, and of course the foot tapping qawalli, that is always a sure hit with the crowd.

It was amazing to see the eye for detail, whether it was the outfits or the jewelry or the meticulous way the stage was set. It also spilled into the performance, the dance steps and even the way each segment ended. The music varied from classical to fusion to plain Bollywood as kids of all age groups put up a finely tuned segment.. The entire performance was a wonderful improvisation of the classical and the modern while remaining true to the focus of paying tribute to the young artists through their art.

Dulari Doshi and her mother have transcended two generations of dancers under Dina. Dulari is nine and will be a fourth grader in the fall. She said, "For me a true Artist is an artist with a passion and dedication for their art?.. When my mom was a teenager she used to learn from Dina aunty. Even when my mom was pregnant with me she danced. That's where I got my dancing feet?.. our family finally moved to the U.S.A. For a couple of years I danced at home. My mom found out about Kruti and went to check it out. There she met Dina Auntie after 20 some years! And the next thing you know, I am at Kruti learning from my mom's teacher."

Sagar Patel says, "I have been with this academy for six years. It is a very special part of my life. When I came to Kruti I was able to learn more about my Indian culture."

Vijay Palvia feels a Kalaakar is one who demonstrates an excellent ability in mesmerizing the audience and at the same time brings out the best of those who dance with him or her.���

Elysse Mahepal became the 29th graduate of the academy in 2005. "Through Kruti we have all found what we are passionate about. A true artist for her was one who could portray him or herself through the art, and yet make it his/her own." For many of us dance has become the art that we can express ourselves through. Kalakaar is something that Kruti has shown us to be both pure and beautiful. It is something that the academy brings forth in every one of its students."

Mili Shah is the 30th and most recent graduate of the academy. "Coming all the way from Augusta, GA, I have driven 3 hours to come to class every week for seven years, but it has been well worth this sacrifice. I have learned so much on my path to becoming a true artist from Kruti's values and lessons."

For Dina Sheth, this year's program, was an offshoot of her dream 10th anniversary show, ‘Flight to fantasy,' which she held at the Fox theater. " I felt this year I would like to focus on the artists themselves." Each stage of an artist's life is a milestone, says Dina and as the artist develops and evolves, he or she must realize that a true artist is the one who evolves with grace, generosity and graciousness. The preparations began 3-4 months before the final event, clothes were designed, jewelry matched, new parents were shown two makeup sessions lasting four hours each to help them understand that makeup styles for classical dances and Bollywood segments were different. Dina also prefers not to dress the kids in revealing clothes, or leave their hair loose." I like the elegant and clean lines both in clothing and hair styles as well as make up."

Sissy Simmons, who is not Indian or married to one, teaches the major segments of contemporary dances. "I saw Sissy perform and really liked her dance style as well as her ethics and moral values. She spent 6-8 months understanding from me what Indian culture is all about, what kind of values and philosophy it carries with it. I got her to see a lot of videos, before she taught her first class."

The show ended with beautiful diamond crystal trophies andhandcrafted certificates, with fresh flowers pressed into them --presented to the artists. Three students of the year awards were handed out to students who truly embodied the spirit of leadership, modesty, flexibility, volunteerism, discipline and responsibility, along with a positive and courteous attitude. Shaina and Shreya Patel and Pooja Sampat were the deserving winners this year.

- Kavita Chhibber


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