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Shyama - The Mystical Indian Woman

November 2005
Shyama - The Mystical Indian Woman

Well-renowned classical dancer, choreographer and film actress, Shobana, gave a spectacular bharatnatyam ballet production, with her troupe, inspiring students and parents alike through an ensemble of classical and fusion items. An exponent of bharatnatyam, she heads the "Kalarpana," dance academy to "share her knowledge of the art and passion for the next generation of artists." Her talents lie not only in choreography, teaching and dancing but she is also a prominent actress who has won the national awards for her films Manichitrathaazhu (Malayalam) and Mitr (English).

Accompanying Shobana were Bhavini Thiagarajan, Revathy Kumar and Aswini Arun who took the audience through a journey of the "mystical Indian woman"-Shyama. Organized by AID (Association for India's Development), the program was held at Roswell Cultural Arts Center on Friday, Oct 14th.

The invocation pieces, "Kouthuvam," consisted of a combination of pure dance and symbolic expressions to the supreme powers of Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva. One of the central pieces in the repertoire, the "Varnam," consisted of Nritta (pure dance movements), Abhinaya (dramatic art of story-telling) and Nrithya (a combination of the two). This piece dramatizes about how the five elements of water, wind, air, earth and fire awaken Mother Kali.

The climax of the first segment was the piece titled "Shyama," addressing a harsh reality facing many Indian bridegrooms even today. Through bharatnatyam, the artistes conveyed a simple story with finesse about a contemporary Indian woman who fought for justice against the risk of being ostracized from society about the infamous "dowry" system. This piece illuminated the audience with its theatrical style by using humorous imagery to convey a serious note. Set against a colorful tapestry, the powerful rhythm, elegant style and innovative choreography.

The second segment featured the artistes in a fusion ensemble opening with "Thaaye Yashoda," from Morning Raga. The movements and rhythm in this piece personified the mischievous Lord Krishna when he was a child. Shobana's flawless rendition of this classical song with a unique choreography won the audience's attention. The breathtaking item for the evening "Maathe," displayed the multi faceted talents of India from pageants, to landscapes to Bollywood. The florid outfits set to A. R. Rahman's "Vande Matram" only enhanced the talent of these young artistes. Shobana recanted her purpose for choreographing each item and described the beauty associated with each piece.

Shobana showed how classical Indian dance could be used to convey so many different emotions but her finale item, entitled "Bharatnatyam to Bach," epitomized the merging of the eastern and western cultures. A phenomenal piece that incorporated the latest dance steps from Indian films by preserving the classical elements of dance, Shobana and troupe set an amazing precedent for the Indian American community.

- Archith Seshadri

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