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The dance of life

RANJANI RAJENDRA
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Curtain raiser Five dancers set to perform Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophy through a ballet

IN SYNCMasako, Prateeksha, Smitha, Rashmi and Shritha Photo: G. Ramakrishna
IN SYNCMasako, Prateeksha, Smitha, Rashmi and Shritha Photo: G. Ramakrishna

It’s a dance show with a difference. Where most classical dances draw inspiration from mythology, epics and lives of great saints, ‘Essence of Life’ (inspired by Jiddu Krishnamurti’s teachings) boasts of spreading a message through five different dance styles, all performed by noted artistes. Produced by Dega Dev Kumar Reddy of Dega Arts, the show will be staged on May 11 at Ravindra Bharati. Noted artistes like Masako Ono, Smitha Madhav, Shritha Baskar, Rashmi Menon and Prateeksha Kashi will present the concept through Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi. We speak to them on what it took to put together this show.

Masako Ono, Odissi: For this Japanese artiste, dance was merely physical movements, till her first brush with Odissi. “I had trained in contemporary and western dance forms since age four. But during my University days, I happened to watch a video of an Odissi performance. I had never before watched anything so striking and I realised that dance was not just physical movements. It was also evocative,” she says. She moved to Odisha nearly 16 years back and trained in Odissi. Today she runs her own school of performing arts. Performing the Essence of Life, she says, has been one of the most challenging tasks so far and feels that there is still a lot of room for her to improve. “It took me a long time to choreograph my piece. I portray the act of meditation and unlike popular perception, meditation is not merely chanting mantras,” she says.

Prateeksha Kashi, Kuchipudi: This software engineer from Bengaluru, began dancing since she was five. The daughter of noted Kuchipudi exponent Vyjayanthi Kashi, dance runs in her genes. When she was approached by Dega Arts, she was not too familiar with Krishnamurti’s teachings. “I had heard of him. Once I began working on this piece, I gradually began to learn about his work. What sets this piece apart from others is that it makes people put on their thinking caps. When I was approached for this show I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how. After working on it for two months, I was able to choreograph the piece and the response has been great,” she says.

Rashmi Menon, Mohiniyattam: Mohiniyattam is known to be a gentle dance form and considering Rashmi has to portray how to get rid of violence, choreographing it proved to be a huge challenge. “I had to portray the sexual assaults on women, acts of terrorism etc and to bring these to life through my dance was challenging. However, I tried and toned down on the use of lasya movements and introduce a bit of ‘tandava’ instead. It turned out well and I had immense help from the lyricist and also Sanskrit pandits who helped me understand Krishnamurti’s teachings,” she smiles.

Shritha Baskar, Kathak: A Tamilian born and brought up in Dubai, Shritha began her tryst with Kathak at a very young age. Her love for the art was so strong that she moved back to Chennai a couple of years back to set up her dance academy and also train under various noted gurus. Essence of Life happened by chance to her, she says. “The title intrigued me and I went to watch the show. Incidentally, my mother’s friend helped organise the show and that’s how we met Dega sir. He offered me the Kathak piece, which was being performed by Pali Chandra, and I gladly took it up,” smiles this 20-year-old dancer.

Smitha Madhav, Bharatanatyam: Known for her dancing prowess and several successful shows, it is little surprise that Smitha was approached by Dega for this show. “My piece is on freedom from fear and although choreographing it was challenging, the process itself was very organic. In fact, as we keep performing the piece keeps evolving and I find newer ways to present it. I am very glad to be part of this venture,” she says.

RANJANI RAJENDRA

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