Asia Society of Houston Presents ‘Samskriti: A Story. A Song, and a Dance


This simple sentence from Jean Donatto’s introductory welcome set the tone for the brilliance that emanated from the stage and warmed the hearts of the audiences at Samskriti’s world premiere of A Story. A Song, and A Dance, presented by the Asia Society Texas Center on Saturday, March 26. It was Samskriti’s first home production after a two year forced hiatus caused by the pandemic, and it was heartening to see the overwhelming response.

Rathna Kumar, Samskriti’s Artistic Director, created magic by combining art forms of different genres to convey a universal theme of hope through story-telling, song, and dance. Jean Donatto, the brilliant storyteller, invested every word she uttered with intense feeling that evoked emotions with which everyone in the audience could identify. Irma La Paloma and Jeremy Garcia touched a deep chord with their soulful Flamenco music that transcended language. Rathna Kumar created compelling visual imagery to the song and story with a nuanced, sensitive depiction of the artist’s agony of isolation and loneliness and the ecstasy of performing once again. This was further enhanced by the young dancers of the Anjali Dance Company, along with Venugopal Josyula, who conveyed the anxiety of separation and the shared camaraderie of performing together through Rathna Kumar’s striking choreography. Abhishek Balakrishnan’s creatively original musical score formed a unifying thread that held the story together. His virtuosity as a violinist was evident in his transitions from compelling to subtle. The talented percussionist Naga Srinidhi and young Ishaan Shankar on violin completed the Indian musical ensemble. Words flowed powerfully, music flowed melodiously, dance flowed evocatively and cascaded into a confluence of a single universal message. Rathna Kumar’s insightful conceptual focus was pivotal in seamlessly blending these various elements to give a concrete shape to an abstract theme. On a personal note, I would like to add that I was extremely fortunate to do the lighting design for this inspiring presentation. With excellent support from the technical team at Asia Society, I could create lighting moods to convey simple joys, disruption and emerging hope to blend into the narrative.

Samskriti was honored by the presence of the Consul General of India, Hon.Aseem Mahajan, Consul, Mr.Sandeep Chowdhary and Ms. Necole Irvin, Director, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and officials from the Houston Arts Alliance and the Young audiences of Houston. Asia Society’s Director of Performing Arts and Culture, Michael Buening, moderated an interesting Q&A after the performance. At the reception that followed, many  members of audience expressed that they resonated  with the theme. At times their eyes turned moist with sadness caused by memories of the pandemic but soon transformed to smiles of joy as the songs and dances turned to stories of hope that lightened their hearts. Kudos to Rathna Kumar for her brilliant vision to conceive a universal theme that required collaborative inputs from an eclectic group of artists. The passion and involvement of each and every artist contributed to the stupendous success of A Story, A Song and A Dance. Congratulations to the Samskriti team for this much needed boost to our morale.

Samskriti acknowledges its indebtedness to the City of Houston, through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, and Dance Source Houston, for receiving the grants that made this dream project become a reality.