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Bharatnatyam Masters Perform in Atlanta

August 2003
Bharatnatyam Masters Perform in Atlanta

On July 1st, Atlanta's Global Mall's Impact Conference Center played host to world-renowned Bharatnatyam masters V.P. and Shanta Dhananjayan. Though the couple has traveled extensively around the country and in the Southeast, this was their first visit to Atlanta.

Graduates of the Kalakshetra dance academy in Chennai, the Dhananjayans have served for years as teachers and performers at Kalakshetra and their own school, Bharata Kalanjali. They are recipients of multiple awards, and their students now perform and teach in all corners of the globe, including the US, UK, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Sri Lanka, and many, many more. Their current project is the Bharateeya Saamskaarika Kalaa Rangam center for art, culture, and education - BHAASKARA for short - and aims to offer the opportunity of dance to rural children who otherwise do not have access to such programs.

Atlanta based Bharatnatyam teachers Subhadra Sudharshan, Preeti Vinayak Shah, Savita Vishwanathan (all students of the Dhananjayans), and Chandrika Chandran combined efforts to host a reception and exhibition for and by the Dhananjayans. "A Nostalgic Journey into the Art of Classical Dance" intended to showcase both the master artists and local students. About 150 people attended the performance and lecture-demonstration.

The student dancers performed laudably, despite a slow start due to technical problems. Mr. Dhananjayan, "Ana" or "Master" to his students, gave an informal, unscripted lecture discussing the roots and history of Bharatnatyam, the meaning of the dance in its Nritta, Nritya, and Abhinaya components, and the predominance of all Natya Sastra derived dance forms on the subcontinent. For the eager parents of young dancers, he stressed the importance of a strong foundation in the basics of the dance, and for the dancers themselves, the value of continuing their dance education.

Though they had not prepared for a performance, Smt. Shanta sang and Shree Dhananjayan performed the short Nandanarchetam, an Abhinaya piece depicting a devotee of Shiva. The devotee, an Untouchable had traveled to Chidanbaram to worship Lord Shiva, but not being allowed in, he waited outside, filled with bhakti and agony. Lastly, to prove that dance is merely a reflection of life's actions and easily interpreted by all, Dhananjayan performed a short children's story, without words, and asked a non-dancer to explain the plot.

The evening ended with high energy as Shanta and Dhananjayan led a spontaneous adavu lesson for the eager young dancers.

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