Dashavatar: A Magnificent Presentation from Samksriti

Concept and Choreography: Rathna Kumar, Artistic Consultant: Seetha Ratnakar, Music Composition: Rajkumar Bharathi.                  Photo: Navin Mediwala

Concept and Choreography: Rathna Kumar, Artistic Consultant: Seetha Ratnakar, Music Composition: Rajkumar Bharathi. Photo: Navin Mediwala

HOUSTON: The excitement in the Wortham Center was palpable on Sunday, April 6. The audience was in for an extraordinary experience that far surpassed their expectations. The curtain opened upon a stunningly beautiful silhouette of Vishnu, with the voice of the narrator (Rathna Kumar) explaining the reason for the avatars. It was continuous and seamless story-telling, through dance and drama, of the Ten Avatars of Vishnu, presented in a short one and half hours, with each story acted out by various characters and linked to the next by three groups of dancers who were the Sutradharis (Chorus), summing up the story through myriad hand gestures and fast footwork.
The large cast of 40 dancers, all of them Houstonians, was uniformly good, giving the performance great consistency in quality. The opening scene, with the chanting of the Vedas, the demon Soma’s stealthy entrance, the mayhem caused by his stealing of the Vedas, with tsunami-like waves, cleverly ‘created’ with fabric, set the perfect mood for the performance. In the lead was Venugopal Josyula, Assistant Director at the Anjali Center for Performing Arts, who glided in and out of various roles with supreme ease. His choreography for all the male dancers, especially the fight scenes, was excellent and well executed. Nishanth Raj, Kiron Kumar, Sudesh Pillutla, Arun Kumar, Harishvar Ganesh and Tejas Kumar donned the roles of the various male characters.
Young Jvalanti as Prahlada, Ankita as the little Vamana and Mareecha the Golden Deer, Samyukta as Vasuki the Snake, Jamy Abraham as Yamuna and Krupa Mysore as Seetha were perfect in their roles. Rathna Kumar’s choreography of the Balarama Avatar was a masterpiece, making it a lively village scene with young folk dancers – Amani, Milinda, Rachana, Ravali, Riya and Jvalanti – who added a wonderful dimension to the whole production. Outstanding in their perfect coordination of movements and their execution of the lightning-fast footwork were the core dancers – Anjali, Sreya, Rohini, Divya, Rukmini, Meera (Kuchipudi) and Amulya, Sneha, Meghana, Shravya, Setu, Sanjana, Smrithi, Tanooha, Jahnvi, Toshani, Samyukta, Rima, Ragini, Harshini (Bharatanatyam). Cameo roles by Anushka as Hanuman and Nandini as a sacrificial goat further enhanced the presentation. And in the midst of all this action was the omnipresent Vishnu, played by Nishka Bommareddy, who looked serene and godly and tailor-made for the role.
The use of levels on the stage was another brilliant idea. Avatars seemed to appear and disappear in a cloud of smoke, and Yamuna descended from a higher plane, almost as if she were coming down from the Himalayas. The brilliant and aesthetic lighting by Krishna Giri and Seetha Ratnakar certainly elevated Rathna Kumar’s amazing choreography to a much higher level, making it a professional presentation. Seetha Ratnakar, former Assistant Station Director of Doordarshan, Chennai and the Artistic Consultant for the production, had also designed all the fabulous costumes, and had specially flown in from India for the show. Ramana Prasad and Shefali Jhaveri did a great job of the props. The music, by Rajkumar Bharathi of Chennai, was divine and memorable, as also the singing by Srikanth and the percussion segments by N. K. Kesavan.
Kudos to Samskriti for such a brilliant and original ‘home’ production, kudos to Rathna Kumar, its Artistic Director, and to Krishna Giri, Seetha Ratnakar and the entire team of dancers and volunteers who must have worked long and tirelessly to make Dashavatar such a grand success! It is heartening to know that this production was funded in part by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance. We look forward to more such events under the aegis of Samskriti.