Dancer Urmila Sathyanarayanan recently toured Australia and Canada. She shares her experiences with KutcheriBuzz readers here...
I had the good fortune of participating in the 'Dance India Taste India Festival' organised by the Temple of Fine Arts in Australia. Temple of Fine Arts is the cultural wing of the Annalakshmi Group headed by Swami Shantananda. The festival was a week long one between 24 and 30 August 2002. There were four groups of artistes invited from India.
The artistes who were from India were Kadri Gopalnath on the saxophone along with Rajashekara (morsing) and Denkanikottai Mani on thavil. Ghatam Karthik’s 'Heart Beat' Ensemble featured Embar Kannan (Violin), Punkulam Subramanian (mridangam), Sethuraman (Kanjira), Sunder (tabla), Palghat Sriram (Vocal & Flute). Mudikondan Ramesh was the solo veena artist.
My musicians were Swamimalai S.K.Suresh (Vocal and Nattuvangam), Hari Babu (mridangam) and Kalaiarasan (violin).
Each of us presented our programmes each evening and the Temple of Fine Arts presented ‘Panchali Sapatham’ choreographed by Jaylakshmi Easwar and 'Butterfly Lovers' a contemporary dance presentation based on an ancient Chinese legend. Each of the groups presented lecture - demonstrations at the Murdoch University, Perth.
To be part of an artistic group like this was a beautiful experience. We all travelled together, stayed at the same place and attended each other's performances. The atmosphere was friendly and festive. However, there was also a lot of positive stress. I was petrified on the night of my show to see all the vidwans seated in the front row! It felt worse than a December season Kutcheri !!
Swamiji made us do several things outside our domain. We had to talk about the performances of other artistes at the end of the show in the presence of the audience. We participated in the prayers every morning and usually ended up doing some impromtu dancing, singing or playing an instrument etc. It was an exhillarating experience.
Personally what touched my heart the most were the members of the Shiva family (as the members of the TFA are known). They are all volunteers who are professionals in their own right but serve in different capacities like cooking, cleaning, chauffering etc.
The group I connected with were naturally the dancers. They are simply an amazing lot. The kind of work they do is superhuman. They danced every night of the festival. They performed Bharatanatayam, Kathak, Contemporary and Odissi. They rehersed in the morning and performed in the evening. Most of the dancers doing lead roles were professionals, married with children. I was overwhelmed.
Another amazing fact was that they actually worked harmoniously together as a homogeneous group. No fragile egos or delicate temperaments here. Living in the western world they still continue to adhere to traditional Indian values. Their spiritual binding to Swamiji is the backbone of their success. Hari Om.
We next presented our own programmes in Sydney and Melbourne. They were both done as fund raisers for the Murugan Temple by the Saiva Mandram. The Sydney Murugan Temple is one of the most beautiful temples that I have ever seen. The vibrations in the temple are almost tangible. We were so inspired that we altered our repetoire to include a few pieces on Lord Muruga.
The dance numbers presented by our group for the tour were predominantly compositions of Shri Lalgudi G. Jayraman and needless to say the audience was capitivated. My pranams to Swamiji for having invited us and made all this possible.
Dancing at Toronto...
In the first week of October, I was invited by the Centre for Tamil Art and Technology, Toronto. My accompanying artistes were Swamimalai S.K.Suresh (Vocal and Nattuvangam) and Hari Babu (mridangam). Local musicians accompanied us on the violin and flute.
One of the programmes we presented was for the 'Natya Vizha' celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Bharatanatayam school run by the Centre. Other performances showcased several teachers of Bharatanatyam and their students.
The startling thing was that there is so much of Bharatanatayam in Toronto. There are over two hundred schools with teachers trained in India and Sri Lanka. Their enthusiasm for Bharatanatayam is amazing.
When I travel abroad, I feel very special. I remind myself that it is temporary and I should not allow myself to be spoilt. However, it always strikes me that it is the sweat and toil that one puts in within the four walls of dance class that is the foundation to any success.