Abhinaya Dance Company’s 35th Anniversary Concert a Classical Delight

by REENA RATHORE, India West | Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015

Dancers of the Abhinaya Dance Company presented a delightful performance at the 35th anniversary concert of the San Jose, Calif.-based company, held at the Louis B. Mayer Theater at Santa Clara University Dec. 5. (Swagato Basumallik photos)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Over 15 trained Bay Area dancers delivered delightful performances in an evening of classical dancing and singing at the 35th anniversary concert of the Abhinaya Dance Company held at the Louis B. Mayer Theater at Santa Clara University Dec. 5.

Aptly-titled “Nritya Dhaara—The Flow of Dance,” the concert encapsulated Abhinaya’s signature pieces — traditional and innovative, involving aesthetically-pleasing Bharatnatyam movements — to present a memorable performance.

Captivating the audience with their use of gestures, facial expressions and eye movements, the dancers lit up the stage for two hours in perfectly choreographed dances, put together by danseuse Mythili Kumar, Indian American founder of the Abhinaya Dance Company, and her daughter and trained dancer, Rasika Kumar.

The enchanting evening saw two exciting works for dance and music aficionados: “Love Exquisite,” where the dancers explored the timeless concept of passionate love through poetry, elucidating ancient Indian and modern concepts, and taking the audience on a journey through the various stages of love; and “Prithvi-the Earth,” an evocation of the environmental challenges facing the planet as told through stories ranging from the Bhopal gas tragedy to deforestation of the Amazon.

In the first act of the evening, Manmatha, the God of Love (aka Cupid), calls upon Vasanth, the season of spring, so he can weave his love magic. The dancers, with their emotive grace and impressive movements, portrayed various animals beginning their courtship and reveling in love during the season.

It transitioned into the epic love story of King Nala and Princess Damayanthi, where dancers Malavika Kumar and Sindhu Natarajan took on different forms and used elaborate hand and foot movements to portay how love is kindled in both their hearts.

The highlight of the evening was a solo performance by Rasika Kumar, who brought out the emotions of Andal, the only female Vaishnavite saint of the 9th century in “Yearnings of the Nayika.”

Fluid hand movements, intricate footwork and sculpturesque poses marked her performance, which received several rounds of applause.

In “Raasa Kreeda,” the dance troupe presented a mesmerizing portrayal of gopi maidens, who abandon their homes and flock to the banks of the river Yamuna, desiring spiritual union with Lord Krishna.

The visually-appealing dancers breathed life into each character they projected in the show, which was replete with creative story-telling within the traditional framework and soul-stirring Carnatic music. Narration between each act provided explanation, context and history to the audience.

Following a brief intermission, Abhinaya’s acclaimed thematic presentation, “Prithvi-The Earth,” was presented, where dancers impressively conveyed the stories of environmental travesties.

The act began with a homage to Mother Earth. From deforestation in the Amazon to pollution caused by noxious gas in Bhopal to displacement of communities near the Narmada River, the piece brought into focus the unthinking plundering of earth’s resources. The evening concluded with driving home the idea that we need to resist the destruction and take care of our dwindling natural resources.

The act stood out with its intensely moving dramatization, where the dancers portrayed each emotion vividly and convincingly. From mystical rivers meandering through the forests to animals being poached in the wilderness to the felling of trees, the dancers impressively conveyed the message through their expressions and body language.

The dancers were ably assisted by Asha Ramesh on vocals, and who also composed the music; N. Narayanan on percussion-mridangam, Shanthi Narayanan on violin, Ashwin Krishna Kumar on flute, Ravi Gutala on tabla, and A. Mahadevan on mohrsing. Artistic director Mythili Kumar and company dancer and musician Malavika Kumar vocalized the rhythmic phrases (the art of nattuvangam), and played the cymbals.