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A “Flight to Fantasy” Indeed

June 2005
A “Flight to Fantasy” Indeed

The 10th annual recital of the Kruti Dance Academy was a knockout performance, thanks in no small part to the venue, Atlanta's prestigious and historical Fabulous Fox Theater. This was the very first time at the Fox for an Indian dance performance choreographed in Atlanta and involving local talent (most of them second generation Indian-American children). On Sunday, May 8th proud parents, relatives, friends, and supporters of dance milled in the foyer waiting in anticipation and excitement. Already inside, decked out in their colorful dance costumes were over 300 boys and girls waiting to put on their show after having trained for it for months.

Respectfully, the invocation prayers started the event. The prayers were solemnly offered by four delightful young members - all in the early stages of their career at Kruti as they set out to learn classical Bharat Natyam and other traditional Indian and modern fusion dance. We were then taken along on a journey into the ?Flight to Fantasy' - the theme of the show. Through search, passion, transcendence and legacy, this represents the symbolic four phase journey that the students take as part of the Kruti family led by their guru Dina Sheth or ?Dina Auntie' as she is affectionately called. The students search enables them to awaken to the rich Indian heritage. Soon they develop the passion for the art of dance and go on to achieve transcendence by incorporating the learning into their lifestyle. The fourth phase of the journey links with the first as academy graduates leave a legacy by orienting the younger dancers.

For this afternoon and evening the audience joined the members of the academy in their ?search'. The extravagance of the set became alive with one group after another of the younger members of the academy, as they gracefully came onto the stage and performed their dances. Yes, after 11 dances of different styles, with both boys and girls, it could be seen that learning steps can indeed become dance! If there was any doubt that learning the steps could be translated into dance we were treated to another 9 dances demonstrating the ?passion' the dancers put into their routines. If we were still unconvinced, the first 2 phases of ?search' and ?passion' concluded with a masterful choreography that led to nearly 150 dancers weaving on and off the stage in their own groups to the music of Chale Jaise Hawaein, the hit song from the movie Main Hoon Na. Here was the fusion of classical Bharat Natyam and Bollywood at its best. Dancers at different levels showed the ?search' had taken them to a ?passion' that translated into wonderful dance. By the way, this only took us to the intermission ? there was more to come as the students were to lead us on their path of ?transcendence' and ?legacy'.

The tempo changed. If you had failed to notice the poise and grace of the dancers in the earlier stages, you could not do so now ? it was even more apparent. Even in speed, the steps were surer, the confidence more obvious. Whether as a solo routine or as part of group choreography the dancers began to gel even more as one. You could see where this was taking them as in the ?legacy' part of the show the more senior students masterfully performed a series of dance that took us from Bollywood to numerous Indian folk dances. The grace, poise and spirit of the most senior dancers, some who have already graduated, were palpable. The finale was an emotional but joyous dance with the teacher and the senior students with other dancers. This was indeed a full circle of sharing, learning and teaching the art of dance. For them all - a ?Flight to Fantasy'.

In the foyer of the Fox Theatre were displayed the scrolled, parchment certificates obtained all the way from Jaipur in India that each student, volunteer and teaching assistants was to receive. The lit trophy showcased a three-dimensional image of a Kruti dancer embedded in glass. Director Dina Sheth gratefully acknowledged all the generous sponsors, tireless volunteers, costume designers who outdid themselves this year, the technical staff and all her dancers and, of course her family.

How difficult it must have been for Dinaben to choose the student of the year for 2005. In the end the award went to two students, Elysse Mahepal and Pooja Sampat, who exemplified the values of dedication, excellence in dance technique, leadership and selfless community spirit in the academy. As Pooja Sampat respectfully gestured to touch Dina Auntie's feet, she must have been acknowledging the love and respect of all students in the academy.

- Dr. Yusuf Ahmed

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