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Dance Ballet Reaches Celestial Heights in Atlanta

September 2003
Dance Ballet Reaches Celestial Heights in Atlanta

After much anticipation, the 5H Celestial Dance Ballet arrived at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center in Atlanta on July 27, the third stop on its nine-city tour. The ballet was also scheduled to be performed in Boston, Washington D.C., Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Francisco, Chicago, and New Jersey.

For choreographer Rashme Hegde Gopi, a performance of this magnitude is nothing new. Nupura Kaveri was the inaugural piece at the 1997 Indian National Games, and Sahasrara, her latest, was featured at the January inauguration of the Art of Living Headquarters in Bangalore. She has mastered Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, is trained in Mohiniyattam, and is now learning Navajanardhana Parijatham, a lasya dance from Andhra Pradesh. The ballet clearly drew from Rashme's rich and varied dance background. The audience was treated to radiant costumes, captivating music, and stunning, creative choreography. In addition to Bharatanatyam, each of the two dramas featured a variety of classical dance styles from all over India. The blend of styles showcased choreographic ingenuity while adhering to traditional steps.

Sahasrara, or Awakening of the Kundalini Shakthi, represented the seven chakras of enlightenment. Dance imagery of Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Ether illustrated the first five chakras. The drama featured Kalari, a tumultuous martial art from Kerala, depicting the awakening of the Kundalini Shakti, a Kathak piece invoking Water, and a Mohiniyattam piece conveying Wind. The highlight of Sahasrara, however, was a performance by Mysore B. Nagaraj representing Ardhnarishwar, or the Shiva-Shakti union. Dressed on his right side as a man and on his left as a woman, he held a cloth over half of his body, or danced facing the side of the stage, to display only one character at a time.

Amrita-Manthana told the story of The Churning of the Ocean with beautiful detail, though at one hour long, it was a little lengthy for some. The dance portrayed Lord Shiva presiding over the struggle between the Gods and the Demons. The highlights of this drama were undoubtedly the three Yakshagana dancers (a style from Karnataka) with their dazzling costumes, portraying the Suras (Gods), Asuras (Demons), and Kalakoota (poison). The dance also incorporated Kuchipudi and Lavani, a style from Maharastra. It was hard to find fault with the performance, only that the narration could have gone more in depth, as an audience in America does not have the dance or mythology knowledge assumed in South India. However, even those without such background could appreciate the beauty of the presentation. The dancers were of the highest caliber and clearly very versatile, and until the last moment they continued to astound, earning them a standing ovation and cheers.

Around 500 people attended the event, and organizers have high hopes for Atlanta's contribution to the 5H program. Since the program is mainly run by volunteers, there are few production costs. Once the total contribution has assessed, 5H will distribute the funds as necessary among its programs in India, Africa, Europe, Central America, and the United States.


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