BY SUSHMA MOHAN*
Photos by Venkat Kuttua
Atlanta, GA, September 6, 2022: Deeksha School of Performing Arts, Atlanta recently presented its dance production SERENITY. Led by its founder and Guru Anupa Guha Thakurta, the dancers took the audience on a 90 minute nonstop brilliant journey of visual treat, grandeur, and excellence. Coming to stage after a long covid break, the dancers did complete justice to the much-awaited performance, on the school’s 15th year celebrations.
Trained under gurus Thankamani Kutty, and Saroja Vaidyanathan (Ganesa Natyalaya New Delhi), Anupa has carved a path for her creations and performances with a generous sprinkling of creativity and a solid foundation in traditionalism. “Serenity – the production” ranged from traditional Alaripu and Jathiswaram to a more nontraditional “Mayhem” and “Sajani” proving Anupa’s flair in using Bharatnatyam to deliver various messages. All the dance numbers had an underlying divine connection of traditional Indian dance, interspersed with contemporary subjects of peace, love, hatred, and war. Connecting the dances vividly with poetry, the dances immaculately amalgamated through different modes of joy, vivacity, and peace.
The brilliant choreography of Guru Anupa was evident through the nonstop 90-minute production as the dancers breezed in and out of stage, effortlessly, precisely and clad in new costumes every time they made an entry. The impeccable formations and accurate movements were proof of the five years that went in the making of the production (adding 2 years due to the pandemic)
The afternoon began with a rich choreographic piece of Guru Rama Vaidyanathan’s BODHANA, an invocatory composition of selected verses from Maannika Vacchagar’s THIRUVEMPAVAI, exploring poetry, music, expression, and music, setting the stage for what to expect throughout the production.
The dances ranged from an extremely adorable “Do Re Mi” (Choreography: Guru Anupa Thakurta) using the popular song Do Re Mi juxtaposed to the notes of ShankaraBharanam, to Shankara Sri Giri (Choreography: Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan) with the senior dancers, displaying the meticulous and successful training of Guru Anupa over the last 15 years. Do Re Mi was a Carnatic improvisation of the popular English song, set to the basic notes of Shankarabharanam raga performed exceptionally by the beginner group while Shankara Sri Giri presented Anupa’s seasoned senior students to the traditional choreography of Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan.
While dances like Bodhana, Tarita Jham, Madhurashtakam, Kaal Bhairava Ashtakam, Alaripu, Jathiswaram presented traditional Bharathanatyam themes, dances like Rainstorm, Rhythm speaks, Mayhem and Do Re Mi generously used social themes of terrorism, rhythms of the human body, weather, and rain through the framework of Bharathanatyam.
Guru Anupa should be credited with the myriad of dances presented, appealing to the non-artist as well as artists in the audiences. “The creation and presentation of Serenity – the production” as Anupa puts it “is an offering to the times we are living in. Today the theme has more relevance”. “Dance”, she believes “should be enjoyed by all”, and she prides in using Bharatnatyam as a medium of expression.
As Anupa herself danced effortlessly on stage, she was supported ably by fellow dancers Kassiyet Adhikhankyzy and Nisha Raj, both disciples of Ganesh Natyalaya and by her own graduate students Rati Shankar Sarkar, Amrita Sarker, Anjali Chareddy, Tarini Gajelli, Priasha Paul and Navya Katragadda.
Outstanding light, stage design and projections by Abir Thakurta, poems and narration by Shankar Sengupta, colorful costumes and a flawless production marked the evening. The proceeds of the evening also benefitted ASHA for Education a nonprofit working in various parts of India.
*Sushma Mohan is the founder-artistic director of SOORYA FOUNDATION FOR PERFORMING ARTS Los Angeles – Atlanta. The foundation is supported by the state, city, and local arts agencies of California and Georgia.