Ψ In-Step is about Dance, Naach, or Nritya.  In Sydney and Melbourne there are  over 22 Classical Bharathanatayam Dance schools with an increasing array of dance companies popularising various combinations of hip-hop, bollywood and yoga. The “getting fit” themes however do not deter some from being keenly interested in the Classical forms of Indian dance. My interest in Dance is simply fuelled by my complete fascination with movement, emotion and story telling.  As my eyes absorbs every move of the dancer, my heart beats through the dancer’s mind.




One of the TRIO Sister’s Gayatri Brings ‘Meera’ to Sydney

By Sydhwaney

Maathru_010 A group of volunteers in an effort to promote Indian Culture and Arts organized an evening of Bharathanatyam and in the process raised funds to help the blind children of the Maathru School of Blind in Bengaluru or perhaps it was the other way around. Either way they were successful in dedicating an evening for the good of the community and humanity in general. In a humble effort to raise funds for the sightless, the programme was organized in a typical Aussie way – in the outdoors. The programme was held at the North Epping Public School under a large pergola with volunteers having to build a DYI stage on the very day of the performance.

The dancer ofcourse was none other than a student of the well known Dhananjayans. One of the acclaimed Trio Sisters of Chennai, Gayatri Krishnamoorthy, presented Meera. Initially choreographed by her sister Shobhana Balachandar who has also released a DVD of the same, Gayatri brought her own interpretation of Meera’s devotion and love for Her Lord. When asked how and in what manner she differed in her interpretations of Meera, Gayatri says “I had several discussions with my sister, Shobhana Balachandar, before I choreographed this production. I changed the choreography to adapt the Abhinaya of the dance to flow the way it would do so for me. With Abhinaya centered productions one always brings one’s own individuality to the dance. I also interpreted some of the parts of the song differently. The purpose of Meera’s life was a journey of self realization and her yearning to become one with the Lord. Therefore I gave the dance a different climax. Whilst Meera’s life ends on earth her soul joins Krishna. And I have tried to finish off at a positive note of showing the final spiritual union between Krishna and Meera. A solo dance is very different when it is rendered in a pure format without any sound and light effects to assist but just the music. Therefore I strived to maintain the different moods within the song to ensure it is a continuous emotive story telling. I enjoyed dancing to the choreographic excellence of using jathis to show the temple construction”.

The dance was watched by children and adults in complete silence with the soulful Maathru_017 voice of Radha Bhadri and her accompanying artists reverberating and intermingling with the smells of an Australian summer evening. A truly rewarding and wonderfully relaxed and enjoyable evening which was finished off with the speech of local council member Dilip Chopra who said that he would work hard towards building a multicultural centre in the Town of Hornsby. The group of volunteers provided a sumptuous meal and raised an impressive amount to be donated to the Maathru School of Blind. For those who wish to support this worthy cause donations can be sent to Mathru Educational Trust For The Blind , C.A. Site 14, 6th ‘A’ cross, 5th Phase, New Town, Yelahanka, BENGALURU – 560-064, Karnataka. INDIA.

Gayatri Krishnamoorthy, a Sydneyite, is to perform in Madras for Karthik Fine Arts on the 1 January 2009 at 7.30 pm at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore. She will be accompanied by her sister Radhika Shurajit, the producer director of the Television Show “Thakadhimi Tha” and Shobhana Balachandar. The Trio Sisters are dedicating this programme to the great singer and Gana Vidushi ML Vasanthakumari, designing her initials MLV to an acronym Melody, Laya and Vidwat. The writer hopes that Sydney will one day see this production here.




By Sydhwaney



Padma Balakumar as Yashodha in Orithey Maganai

Padma Balakumar the Founder and Artistic Director of Nrityagriha School of Dance along with her students presented the stories of Krishna in Krishnaleelamrutham to a packed Hall on 6th September 2008 at the Science Theatre, University of NSW, Kensington, NSW.

Padma Balakumar student of Malathi Srinivasan a senior shishya  of Rukmini Devi of Kalakshetra and KN Dandayuthapani Pillai, brings their influences in her unique style of Bharathanatyam that is beautiful and enthralling. Krishna Leelamrutham   was a spectacular exciting venture into the arena of producing for Padma who successfully brought to fore the talents of four of her senior students, Malavika Mukunda, Bhavya Bharadwaj, Vasudha Shivram, Sruthi Ravi and twenty nine students of ages ranging from 8 years to over forty

The pace for the entire evening was established by Padma and her fourVasudha Shivram senior students in the offering of flowers in Pushpanjali preceded by the expressive commentary in English by Rama Vishwanathan which helped the flow of stories through the evening. The costumes captivating and colorful in conjunction with the perfectly synchronised capturing expressions, movements, mood and footsteps the five dancers grabbed the attention of the audience to be carried through out the performance.

Thus the story of Krishna unfolded, presided over by none other than the Multicultural Affairs Minister, Laurie Ferguson, who later handed over a cheque of $6000 to the Sri Venkateswara Temple from funds raised by Padma Balakumar and the many volunteers who helped make the unraveling of the magical stories of Lord Krishna a roaring success.

Padma says she owes it toMulticultural Affairs Minister Laurie Ferguson, Padma Balakumar and SVT President her mother Mrs Santhanam for all the help with the selection of the songs for the production. She says “Music for the entire production was the most important aspect of the Show and great attention went from the selection of the songs to their recording with the help of musicians in Sydney”. Whilst there were some familiar songs like “Adharam Madhuram Vadanam Madhuram” from Madhurashtakam, compositions of composers such as Narayatheerthar, Purandara Dasar, Verses from Thiruppavai, Periasamy Thooran and of course Ashtapadi were chosen to connect lyrics to the story, naadam to bhaavam, rhythm to steps.

With a smile Padma says that she has worked particularly hard to ensure that the children, all first generation Indian Australians, understood every word of the songs so that it helped all the dancers express and emote the story at the same time instill in them an uncompromising attention to hand and leg movements.Malavika Mukunda

As the story evolved, from the birth of Krishna in the prison to being raised in the loving lap of Yashodha, Padma’s solo piece to the song “Orithey Magannaay    perinthu” set the standard for the evening. Krishna’s beauty, in Adharam Madhuram, his mirth and mischief in Vennai Undu whilst he steals butter with his friends and his naughty pranks in ‘Thottu Thottu Peshavaran’. Govardhana Giridhari brings Krishna as the majestic conqueror winning the hearts of the people of Mathura, were beautifully depicted by all the children along with one senior student in each piece.

But ofcourse there was more to come, as the performance matured into brilliance in the presentation of “Aadithanoranga”, the conquering of the poisonous snake Kaalinga when Padma enters along with all the four gems in the production Malavika, Bhavya, Sruthi and Vasudha capturing each nuance together with intricate footwork, excellent choreography and sculpturistic poses to the voice of Sydney vocalist Ms Prema Ananthakrishnan.

To the dancers from the over 40 group, congratulations are due. They kept in step with the young one’s with equal proficiency and danced expertly to the ‘show of seasons and the ‘Rasaleela’, show casing the youthful and romantic play between Krishna and his consort, Radha choreographed in a free format style.

Sruthi RaviThrough out the entire evening the senior students played various roles. Vasudha’s dance as a peacock, as elephant Gajendra, as an evil Kaurava were depicted very successfully, Malavika’s various roles, as mother Yashodha, as Krishna, as  Yudhishtra, as Narasimha were impressive and brought out her calibre as a talented dancer to fore. Bhavya’s footwork and overall performance was unmistakably involving. Sruthi’s display of mother love in the solo item of Yashodha Hari was unforgettable. The lighting effects provided for a lullaby expertly managed by Deepika and another Bharathanatyam exponent and teacher, Hamsa Venkat added the right effect to the dance and the stage decore provided by Revathi.

Producing a show abroad makes  managers, marketers and builders of teachers who would otherwise have been content to concentrate on their makeup and choreography of the dance. To complete a production successfully requires talent a lot of good luck but most of all it requires a determination to see it through.

 Malavika and Bhavya as Krishna and Radha

Padma says ‘I cannot thank the entire Nrityagriha team who have been there every step of the way with me.  I cannot thank our sponsors enough.” The best is always left to the last. To the chorus sung by Prema Ananthakrishnan and Eashwaran accompanied by Balaji on violin, Iyankaran on flute, Bala Sankar on Mridangam, “Krishnam Kalayasakhi”, made for a befitting colorful finale bringing the inclusion of an interesting jathi seeing  dancers weave their movements with and without each other with such harmony that it was enrapturing.

[Click Gallery on the Side to see MORE PHOTOS OF KRISHNALEELAMRUTHAM]



Flamenco Steps and Tabla Beats to Spanish Tunes By Sumi Krishnan

Presented by Flamenco Red is a collaboration of varying styles and cultures. The first half of the programme is the story of Queen Isabel of Spain. History shows that in 1492 Granada was conquered, the Jews were expulsed and Columbus funded for a second voyage to the Indies. Ruled by Isabel, a decade before and known for formalizing the Spanish Inquisition creating a counsel solely for killing non-Catholics, mainly Jews, Queen Isabel ‘La Catholica’ ironically was known for her prudence, gentleness and particular empathy for American Indians demanding they be given equal rights in the new colonies. She encouraged education for women in Universities and was the first woman on a US coin and Stamp. Isabel the dance is about the inner workings of the mind of a world leader who so precisely set in motion events that altered history, cultures

and regions. She was the catalyst for Flamenco in the name of righteoanna 1

usness and peace.

The dance unfolds as Annalouise Paul enters into a dark red stage to the rhythms of the Tabla played by none other than Bobby Singh, the favourite tabla player of Sydney. In a perfect execution of uniting force, the Spanish guitar played by Robbie Varga, accompanies the story telling of the Annalouise Paul who portrays the emotions of a Queen torn between ruling, and the conscience and voice of her mind, shown by the stringed music, and that of her heart weaved through the rhythms of the tabla. A combustive contemplative and intense piece showing immense concentration, heat and energy emanate between the artists with the effective use of lights on stage made for a breathless performance leaving the audience reflective and in awe.

Annalouise Paul is a pioneering dancer with a commitment to teaching delivering pilot programs for students and teachers of the DET, Australia Council, Arts NSW, Western Sydney Dance Action, and Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. She is also the recipient of Critical Path, Margaret Farm Residency, Arts NSW and Australia Council each time working with Bobby Singh. Bobby is Australia’s well known tabla player, student of Pandit Nikhil Ghosh and Aneesh Pradhan. Bobby Singh has received numerous awards and performed with musicians all over the world and in many festivals. Robbie Varga is a master of contemporary flamenco guitar, and has performed with well known choreographers in his 30 year anna and bobby

career span.

The second half of the programme was made up of an interesting mix of styles called Are you Game? the artists, Bobby Singh on Tabla, dancers Miranda Wheen and Melisa Gowen, and World and Junk Percussion Electronics, Peter Kennard launch on a challenging journey of displaying their individual styles initially showing their own prowess and technique with arrogance until all communication between the artists falls apart and realization dawns that a conversation starts with listening actively to one another and considering and perhaps imitating each act initially from a “place nowhere” to finding commonalities. A humourous and energetic journey that finishes in hearty comraderie between the artists and the audience. Melisa Gowen flexible and innovative, is the founding member of Dirty Feet in Sydney. She has danced in New York and Amsterdam; Miranda Wheen is a recipient of the Dean’s medal who has choreographed many cross cultural dances as a part of her regular work. Peter Kennard is a composer, producer and musical director with a career span of 20 years who has worked with many well known musicians in Sydney showed his prowess with bringing kitchen utensils to life during this part of the performance with an uncanny feather like touches on the Cymbal. Bobby Singh once again, showed his rhythmic creations in this section of the dance for the evening with unfailing insight into the choreography through his spontaneous compositions.


 Priyadarshini Govind Wins Over Sydney with Mother Love

 By Devadhwaney

Its the Pallavi Extravaganza of the year, Priyadarshini Govind – the dancer, a picture of poise, sophistication and beauty. She danced her way into the hearts of Sydney-siders in a spectacular performance at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta on Saturday 23rd AugusPriyadharshini Govind..the Dance of the Glancet.

One of the most talented dancers of our time her performance opens our minds to the full aesthetic potential of classical solo dance. Her capacity to communicate with the viewers in the language of dance through poetry, drama and music, using every part of the face and body brought out the emotional depths of each piece. With structured style, beauty, grace and impeccable footwork, she held the audience spellbound.

Preceding each performance was a short and sweet explanation of the piece with a little insight into the poet’s thoughts making everything she did on stage that much more meaningful. Innovative lighting by Sri K. Murugan added volumes to the general mood of the item.

The first half was mainly dedicated to “Devi” and her various forms, the theme for the Varnam portrayed comprehensive footwork and mudras. Priyadarshini statuesque style, nimble footwork and variety of poses presented in a contained performance emphasised discipline and concentration on technicality. An unmistakable chemistry between the artiste and her accompanists was established from the beginning. The voice of Preethy Mahesh complimented each bhava of the dancer. Govind’s mastery of Nattuvangam and her command on laya was noticeable in her “jugalbandi” with her Nattuvar, Sri KN Sajilal.

The second half consisted of padams, bringing out the softer and artful part of the Dance. Priyadarshini danced to a fifteenth century poetry; depicting the scene where the heroine angered by her lover’s false promises sends him away. Artistically done with only the Mridangam by Sri M. Saktivel as accompaniment, she used minimum footwork and a wide array of facial expressions to display anger and willfulness. She then embarked on a set of three pieces which displayed the love between the mother and a child.

The tragic story about a little boy who died at war and the mother’s initial pride that he faced death bravely and then despair of losing her son, set to poetry in Tamil written by a Srilankan Poet, it brought many a tear to an eye. Thumaka chalatha Ramachandra showed Kaushalya’s amazement and pride at her little boy’s first steps and finally the popular folklore Maad Meku poha Venda kanne showing Yashoda’s dialogue with her mischievous and stubborn son. The accompaniment of the violinist, Sri N Sigamani, was truly delightful.

The evening came to an end too soon, with a powerful performance of Kalinga Nardhana a piece popularized by the singer Aruna Sairam and an Abhang. On the whole a wonderful experience to the lovers of this art form and novices alike.





Critics’ View of the Future of Contemporary Dance [This article is published in www.narthaki.com and contains excerpts of the Talk provided by Dr Kothari]

By Sumi Krishnan

On the 24 July 2008 at the official launch of Critical Path’s new Research Residency Room Program in Sydney, Helen Martin, Critical Path’s Project Manager said that the objective of Critical Path is to invigorate dance in Australia, through the creation of the richest possible environment for choreographic research and development. She said the program offers research opportunities to choreographers and dance Dr Kothari with Anandavalli and othersmakers, nurturing diversity within a supportive critical environment. Its purpose is to help artists publish research outcomes in a range of forms such as public forums and seminars, conferences, research papers, web content development, exhibitions and dance sharings and showings.

At the Official Launch of Critical Path Dr Garry Lester and Padma Shri Dr Kothari were called to give a talk. Dr Lester has worked in the area of performance for more than thirty years as a performer, choreographer and teacher, ranging from dance, drama, visual and fine arts. Mr Lester traced the development of dance ballet from 1920 to modern dance in Australia. He drew upon the concept and influence of Ballet on modern Australian dances.

Dr Sunil Kothari talked about “New Directions in Indian Dance”. Dr Kothari said that the dialogue between East and West has been going on for a while. He referred to Uday Shankar in particular who he said took his works abroad back in the 1930’s. He talked about Uday Shankar’s body of works, institutionalizing of dance by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and Vallathol Narayana Menon at Santiniketan and Kerala Kalamandalam, respectively, the pioneering work of Rukmini Devi in the field of Bharatanatyam.

Dr Kothari showed a rare photograph of Rukmini Devi in a ballet costume, he had obtained from Monash University, Melbourne from collection of Louise Lightfoot, an Australian dancer who also studied for some time with Rukmini Devi in India in thirties. Rukmini Devi during one of her travels to Sydney, had taken lessons in ballet under Anna Pavlova’s trouper Cleo Nordi, and later on at the suggestion of Pavlova returned to India and took lessons in Bharatanatyam. The rest is history. Today Kalakshetra dancers are all over the world, lessons in Bharatanatyam.
In India however a deep seated need in modern dancers to tell the “real story” saw new stories being extolled through Classical Dance forms. Amongst many were dancers such as Mrinalini Sarabhai, Kumudini Lakhia, Chandralekha, Narendra Sharma, Late Manjushri Chaki Sircar and her daughter Ranjabati Sircar, who created Navanritya based on Tagore’s dance style.
Issues like dowry suicides in India have been depicted in dance by Mallika Sarabhai.He mentioned about the shift in the class of dancers and also shift in the theme of dance and new vocabulary of dance in India. He then screened excerpts of Sharira choreographed by Chandralekha in which elements of yoga were incorporated. Of the few excerpts one on Cricket choreographed by Lata Pada from Toronto, in Bharatanatyam had an instant appeal to Australian audience and Indians in Australia. Cricket through Bharatanatyam movements was very interesting. An interesting mix of concepts and style. He referred to the modern works of dancers such as Priti Patel and Daksha Sheth who used materials such as ropes and sticks and long flowing fabric to depict a new type of choreography. Interestingly he said that contemporary dance has always been challenged by the alternative interpretations given to it by the viewers more often contrary to that intended by the dancer.

Padma Shri Dr Kothari in Sydney with Dr Lester and Helen Martin of Critical PathDr Kothari also talked about the works of Kumudini Lakhia in the style of Kathak. In a recent article Kumudini Lakhia herself said this: “Today one finds choreographers from outside India, Germany, France, USA, wanting to weave Indian classical dance into their own work. I have myself collaborated with some of them. Whether the end product is success or not is irrelevant. The point is that the different dance ideologies of the world have started a dialogue and are now keen to appreciate and approach each other’s cultural heritage. It is now time we create an international dance forum, a sharing that can only enrich our thought processes and bring the world of dance closer http://www.narthaki.com/info/articles/article52.html

Mr Kothari however warned that cross cultural works could be successful only when a dancer had mastered the techniques of his or her own style completely before looking at adopting other styles or considering contemporary themes.
With the advancement of the World Wide Web, technological and other tools the modern contemporary dancer sees opportunities and becomes the catalyst to cross fertilize dance cultures to form new hybrid trends in dance. Inevitably reference to the increasing trend of Bollywood was made. However Dr Kothari was quick to add that whilst there would be no one who can replace some of the great stalwarts, Bollywood dance choreographers have made their mark on the platform of ‘Indian modern’ dance in India. He referred to the famous dance choreographed by Kathak maestro Birju Maharaj in the movie Devadas. Interestingly he said that so much effort has been put into the choreography of dance in Devadas; however its ultimate result whilst spectacular was also the end result of expert filming and editing.
Dr Kothari concluded the talk on a positive note stating that whilst the study of classical dance was important, necessary and continues, contemporary dance forms are emerging. Change is inevitable and he warned that one must be cautious not to put down these ventures. As a critic he said “my job is not to throw darts at a dancer and pick on his artistry but to understand and sympathize with his or her creative intentions and see it without prejudice”. He said a true dancer sees dance and dance related topics, postures, stories in anything which leads to the origin of new forms of dance and new ways of its telling. Rapid commercialization has resulted in a general fall in standards however he said dancers should and are trying to capture “spiritual” essence that existed say in “Mandaps.” He referred to the Manipuri style of dancing where dancers dance in the “Mandap” a practice that continues to this day. The association of one’s relationship to a supreme power through the mode of dance remains a dancer’s ultimate aim.
Local Indian dancers and Australian contemporary dancers attended the talk and an interesting general discussion followed after the talk was over. The illustrated talk was organized through the courtesy of Lingalayam Dance Institute and its director renowned Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer Anandavalli. Margie Medlin, the Director of Critical Path thanked Dr Kothari for his brilliant talk.

Natya Arpanaa -An Enticing Union of Dance, Rhythm and Music 

[Published in www.narthaki.com]

By Sumi Krishnan

Saiva Manram Inc has proved it again by bringing one of the talented young from India, Lavanya AnantLavanya Ananth in Sydneyh, “the Nadana Mamani”, a Pearl of a Dancer, who was accompanied by an equally talented entourage of live artists, here at the Ryde Civic centre on the 18th May 2008 for its presentation of Natya Arpanaa. Saiva Manram Inc ‘s second concert series for the year, Natya Arpanaa was received by a full House of audience.

P.K. Says “The dancer, Lavanya Ananth, is a disciple of Shri Rajaratnam Pillai and Shrimathi KJ Sarasa. Her performances during the recent Marghazi (December) music festival took place in front of jam-packed auditoriums, and earned her rave reviews. Her CV includes a dauntingly impressive list of awards and titles, including the highly prestigious Yuva Puraskar award from the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama.”

The concert starting with the invocatory item dedicated to Lord Ganapathy was followed by a crisp and catchy Shiva Kavuthvam, where Murali Parthasarathy the vocalist showed his versatility capturing the mood of each raga within a few phrases in a ragamalika and the Mridangist, MS Sukhi played a Talamalika showcasing Lavanya’s youthful choreography.

The keerthanam set to Sri Papanasam Sivan’s composition on Lord Muruga, preceded by a theermanam on ‘Om ShaRaVaNa BhaVa” was yet again novel and innovative. The play between Abhinaya and rhythm taking maturity in this piece building up to the Varnam. The Varnam with a wonderful costume change set the stage where Lavanya showed her artistry by wistfully depicting a Nayika’s love for Lord Krishna supported notably by the equally wistful sounds of the violin by young Eashwar Ramakrishnan. Dare I say waltzing in the ambience of Ragam Charukesi in a composition of Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman “Kurall Oothum” Lavanya brought to life this traditional piece which effortless energetic footwork yet beautiful contained Abhinaya.

The pieces that followed were impressive, the choreography in Bharatiyar’s song “Shakthi Koothu’ was unique, the “aarmugum thaalaattu” to the touching violin by Eashwaran, set to Ragam Neelambari was heart wrenching. However the crowning glory for the evening was the Swarajathi showing the altercation between Naadam, Thaalam and Nritya. The Natvangum by Neela Sukanya blossoming within the conversations held by all artists and the dancer held audiences captivating attention until its perfect synchronized finish.


3 Responses to “InStep”

  1. September 29, 2008 at 3:58 am

    hi sumi aunty
    the pictures of the dance concert are so good!did you take the photos? i am loving the site!!:)


  2. September 29, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Hi Anoushka

    Glad you liked it … The Photographs were taken by Mr Arvind Singh of Sydney.

  3. 3 anuradha basu roy
    November 3, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Wow!! What a wonderful site it is!! Sumi, this has soooo nicely done… I enjoyed watching it. Also I was very much impressed with Padma’s performance – She has got real talent!!


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