It is one of Atlanta's most treasured and adored holiday traditions. Indeed, Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker is one of those fixtures that define the spirit of Christmas in the area.
The ballet is based on the book called "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. It is a fairy tale about a young girl, Klara, and her favorite Christmas. Klara's Godfather, Drosselmeier, a magical, mysterious character, presents her with a beautiful nutcracker doll. Very excited about it, Klara wants to stay up and play all night with it, but her family sends her off to bed. After everyone has left and the family is asleep, Klara sneaks downstairs to look at her nutcracker doll. She eventually falls asleep, and with a little help from Drosselmeier's magic, her dream begins.
In 1891, the legendary choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned Tchaikovsky to write the music for the Nutcracker Ballet. In 1892, the first showing of the Nutcracker took place at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia, home of the Kirov Ballet. The first American full length production of Nutcracker was performed by the San Francisco Ballet in 1944. Ever since, the Nutcracker has become an annual Holiday tradition in the United States.
And now, thanks to a spark of creative genius that goes back to 1998, the ballet will be adapted in an Indian classical dance style by the Academy of Kuchipudi Dance. At that time, Maggie Holtzberg, Director of the Folklife Program of the Georgia Council for the Arts, in a conversation with Sasikala Penumarthi, Director of the Academy, wondered about the possibility of the adaptability of Kuchipudi style to Western themes. Penumarthi picked up on it and rose to the challenge.
The result is Swapna Vijayam ("Triumph of a dream"), a Kuchipudi dance drama based on the story of the Nutcracker. Over the years since the seed of the idea was sowed, various synergies came together to lead to the fruition of this novel ballet. When Indraganti Srikantha Sarma, a well known poet and creative Telugu scholar from Andhra Pradesh was visiting Atlanta in 2000, Penumarthi and Dr. P. V. Rao, a respected scholar and veteran of the local Telugu community, discussed with him the possibility of creating a dance drama based on the Nutcracker story.
Swapna Vijayam is an experiment to demonstrate that the Indian classical dance forms are not restricted to the presentation of Indian mythological stories only, but can be adapted easily to any artistic themes outside the Indian culture and mythology. This experimentation led to an elegant, appealing composition of lyrics around the theme of a young girl named Swapna. Set in a palace in India, the characters take on an Indian flavor while the story retains its allegiance to its inspiration, the Nutcracker.
Penumarthi choreographed the dances in authentic Kuchipudi style for all those enchanting episodes that make up the story—the Christmas party in the King's palace, the magician's tricks, the dream of the King's daughter (Swapna) who becomes a maiden in her dream, the nutcracker who becomes a prince, the encounter with the mouse king, and maiden Swapna's trip to the Sugar Plum land with her dream prince.
Subhashini Krishnamurthy, a popular Atlanta singer, joined to compose the melodious music. Sastry Bhagavutula, a Kuchipudi dancer and percussionist from Corning, NY, set the rhythms. Indira Sarma and Reneeta Basu, two well trained students of the Academy, are assisting Penumarthi in direction and production of the play. More than forty dancers are participating in this dance drama. Fifty-three unique, colorful costumes were custom made in India. That, along with elaborate breathtaking sets, is designed to create the appropriate theatrical atmosphere. Live orchestra, with accomplished artists Seshu Sarma, Sujatha Rayburn, Satish Menon, Suresh Kodandaraman, Subra Vishwanathan, Sandhya Srinath, Sastry Bhagavatula and V. K. Raman will provide the music.
Swapna Vijayam will be presented on Saturday, December 15, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. at the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts, Georgia Tech. The performance is a fundraiser for the Emory South Asian Studies Program. For tickets and other information, please contact the Academy of Kuchipudi Dance at 678-473-1753. www.kuchipudi.us
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