“(UN)MASKED” opens our eyes towards women, children, and society
(All Photos: Venkat Kuttua Studio)
A spectacular dance show warmed everyone’s heart as the weather turned cold in Atlanta on Sunday evening, October 29, 2017. Infinite Energy Center in Duluth was bubbling with the beautiful energy of the compassionate hearts of dancers from Bharathakala Naatya Academy (BNA) and from Third Eye Dancers, a nonprofit that promotes charitable giving through dance.
(UN)MASKED is a fusion dance drama with a fresh take on a timeless tale. It takes us through the life stages for a woman from her first breath to her last. At every stage, as daughter, friend, lover, wife, mother, or grandmother, she is conditioned to be accepting of others and look out for others over herself. With every relationship she forges, she dons a new mask as expectations change. This brings a deep desire to peel these layers away and express herself.
Here, a young girl seeks her grandmother’s love when she is bullied by friends who call her stupid. Her grandmother tells her the story of Meena to help her understand who she is and to encourage her to believe in herself. Meena is a village girl who loves a boatman, but since her family doesn’t accept him, she marries a young man from London, Raj—but Raj belittles her and does not encourage her to work outside the home. After her friend helps her find a job as an art teacher at a school for autistic children, she expresses her talent and wins an award. When Raj sees the beautiful art work used by a famous fashion designer, Sandhya Raman, he realizes Meena’s talent and courage.
Subathra Sudarshan, BNA’s teacher, choreographer, and philanthropist, added one more step to create and display a beautiful tapestry of compassion and inclusion by collaborating with Sandhya Raman, Delhi-based costume designer and cofounder of the design agency Desmania. With her use of fabric, Sudarshan revealed that one can keep the values of tradition but flow with the current times, break barriers, and express individuality. Instead of using traditional Bharatnatyam costumes with bright colors and gold borders, she incorporated dresses designed by Raman that used current style and trend, allowing the dancers to be able to go anywhere with the costume after the dance.
Moreover, the costumes were made from digital reproductions of artwork created by children with autism and special needs. This unmasked an image of autism as well, showing that autistic children’s art work can be used to create a sustainable economy.
At the same time, children of special needs from India become part of raising $11,000 for children with similar challenges in another country, Sri Lanka, as the dancers in USA performed to raise funds for the International Medical Health Organization (theIMHO.org), for the benefit autistic children at the Neurodevelopment Disorder Centers in Batticaloa (Thiraniyam) and Jaffna (Mathavam) in Sri Lanka.
All this showed that when our focus is to nurture, like-minded people can remove veils and open the third eye, peeling off several masks for women, children, and society.
Bharathakala Naatya Academy along with Third Eye Dancers has raised and donated over $200,000 for various noble causes and charities.
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