By Priya Das
The power of the SF Bay Area’s very own annual Mahashivaratri ode to Lord Nataraja is that not only does it channelize bhakti, it also brings together generations of creative talent in offering, forming a living connection to the divine.
Anuradha (Anu) Prabhashanker has been organizing this free, open to public celebration for years now, in enthusiastic partnership with fellow-dancers and volunteers.And every year, the organizing team comes up with a different theme which is then communicated informally to bay area dancers, who then come forward with pieces of their own or learnt from gurus that they’d like to present- Inspiration it seems, is Nirantara (uninterrupted) when it comes to the Lord of dance. Describing this year’s theme, the event flyer says, “This year, we honor Lord Shiva as the Gracious Guru who brought the allied disciplines of yoga, karana, and natya to mankind. We glorify Him as the Supreme Yogi, Yogeshwara and the Supreme Dancer, Nataraja. In both yoga and dance, the practitioner seeks to go beyond the physicality of the practice and surrender to the inner yearning for union with the Divine.”
As with previous events, the program begins with a vocal invocation; this time by Prema Sriram. Bringing the vision of master-dancer Rama Vaidyanathan to stage are Roopa Suresh, Kavita Thirumalai, Mallika Gargeya, Revathy Ramachandran, Jyothsna Vaidee (artistic director, Trikona), and Vinita Venkatesh in Patanjali’s “Shambo Natanam.” Next, Shreelata Suresh, artistic director of Vishwa Shanti Dance Academy, will depict Lord Shiva as the preceptor of Yoga and Dance.
Radhika Shankar, eminent practitioner of Bharata Nrityam, will give a lecture demonstration on “Nrtta Hastas and Charis; How they are combined into Karanas” and on “The Usefulness Of A Yoga Practice To A Dancer”.
The event has always stressed on synergies between the various dance forms, the collaborative highlight this year is “Rhythm in Rageshri”, an item by 9 artists of four different classical styles-Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, and Kathak. In order, the artists are Shirni Kanth (artistic director, Mythri Natyalaya) and Deepa Mahadevan (artistic director, Tiruchitrambalam), Gayatri Joshi (artistic director, iGurukul), and Vanani Vasundhara (Jyotikalamandir), Santosh Lakkaraju and Neha Kidambi (Natyalaya), Dipanwita Sengupta (artistic director, Noopur), Pragya Dasgupta (artistic director, Tarana) and Sangita Nandy (artistic director, Kathak Kala Vihar).
An evening dedicated to Lord Shiva cannot be complete without a Tandava item: Saitejaswi Kondapalli will present the “Ananda Thandavam” in the Kuchipudi style, choreographed by Vempati Chinna. Anu herself will dance to “Vachana” (verses) of Akka Mahadevi, a 12th century woman saint from Karnataka, choreographed by Smt. Lalitha Srinivasan.
Underscoring the ability of this informal gathering to provide a firm foundation to young dancers or schools, a new performing group Smaran, will perform Tyagaraja’s “Nadam Thanumanisham Shankara” in Bharatanatyam style.
A few words about the venue- it is a cosy setting, with a dramatic tree branch as a backdrop for the creative energies to unfold on the staging area. The high ceilings are a great setting for soaking up transcendental movements. To sum up, the Mahashivaratri Dance Celebration promises a brush with divine journeys, yogic powers, and artistic meditation- a great start to the rest of the year.
Date: Sunday, 19th February, 2012
Time: 6 p.m.- 8:30 pm
Venue: UUCPA (Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto),
505 East Charleston Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306.
Parking: Please enter/exit in the correct driveway. Street parking available.