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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

An entrancing finale at Thyagaraja Aradhana celebrations

by Radhika Pillai
Boston Indian Immigrant Community

The day-long Thyagaraja Aradhana celebrations at Chinmaya Mission Boston on Jan. 28 ended with an enchanting solo dance concert by Bharatanatyam performer Deepa Srinath. A relative newcomer to Boston, Deepa Srinath made an impact with well-chosen pieces that conveyed her expertise in the dance form. The concert followed a conventional format that nevertheless revealed an artist who is at ease with the traditional demands of Bharatanatyam while being attuned to the modern day audience.

The concert opened with a pushpanjali and shlokam in praise of Lord Ganapathi. The piece served as an apt introduction to the dancer’s pleasing persona as well as her ability in nritta, demonstrating the grace and clarity of her movements and footwork. This was followed by the presentation of two Thyagaraja compositions – “Naada Thanumanisham” and “Sogasuga Mridanga Taalam”. Srinath conveyed her mastery of abhinaya through each of these pieces; the dancer’s own devotion was palpable as she depicted Thyagaraja’s bhakti towards Lord Shiva and Lord Rama in the krithis. “Sogasuga Mridanga Taalam” proved to be an effective vehicle to showcase her versatility in abhinaya, her face and movements deftly conveying each of the navarasas from Ramayana, from “sringaram”, expressing Rama’s and Sita’s love for each other, to “bheebhatsam”, conveying Sita’s disgust at Ravana.

However, the pièce de résistance of the evening was undoubtedly Srinath’s presentation of the dance drama titled “Sita Swayamvara”. Here, Srinath was in her element as she portrayed the events of the swayamvara and the joyous celebrations surrounding the wedding of Lord Rama and Sita. With the help of simple props, this piece brought out the playfulness of the artist as she portrayed some of the suitors’ disgraceful and comedic attempts at lifting Lord Shiva’s mighty bow to win Sita’s hand. The audience clearly reveled in this performance, breaking into laughter and applause at several junctures. This piece demonstrated Srinath’s skills in choreography and established her ability to connect with the audience.

Even without live musical accompaniments (Srinath performed to pre-recorded music), the concert was effective in allowing Deepa Srinath to make her presence felt among local Indian classical dance enthusiasts. However, it was somewhat disappointing to see that the auditorium was only half full. Solo dance concerts by artists of this caliber are rare in this part of the world. It is a sad commentary indeed that, while one sees packed auditoriums at events involving Indian movie stars in New England, it is uncommon to see large audiences at concerts by talented artists such as Srinath (and even Rama Vaidyanathan, who performed in November).

Deepa Srinath received the title “Sathya Abhinaya Sundaram” in 2010 from the renowned Chennai-based Bharathanjali Trust, and she seems poised for greater achievements. One hopes that the audience in New England will prove to be an ally as she establishes herself outside India.

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