The Pushpanjali Six

Bringing together six Bharathanatyam dancers who hadn’t worked together before was a bold move that Dr. Geetha Upadhaya took when she wrote to us mooting the idea that we participate in the Pushpanjali item she had in mind for the grand celebration of the 20th anniversary of Kala Sangam at Bradford. As it turned out, she had chosen well as we all took the lead in various things that go into being on stage for a paltry 5 minutes! From planning for matched costumes to implementing the choreographic vision of Dr. Upadhyaya, to filming and coordinating the rehearsals, the group worked as a team.

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Apoorva sarees from a saree shop in Salem, India : All set to go to the dressmaker to be turned into gorgeous costumes!

The best rehearsal was the one we had early one Sunday morning. Why would two busy professionals bolt down the motorway on a Sunday morning, flailing their hands and shaking their heads to the tune of an ancient archaic bit of music? Why indeed?

While the two of us were making our way through the countryside in Yorkshire, another pair of Bharathanatyam dancers was heading to Bradford from Lancashire.

I suppose it is because we enjoy doing Bharathanatyam. It is something we have done for a long time, growing up. It has great memories for us. A Bharathanatyam session is a great workout session, mind and body included! It appeals to us at least as much as a gym session or running outdoors. The culture embedded in its practice is an important factor. It provides a respite from work, from our modern lives. It facilitates the expression of something deep within. It puts us in touch with sensitivities and values from another era, a form of time travel!

But at the same time, our practice of Bharatanatyam in the north of England in the 21st century is not ossified or stuck in a particular space. This was illustrated amply in how we went about this Pushpanjali. Our choreography was fluid, and limited only by the constraints of time. Technology played an indispensable role in our practice and creativity. Without it, we would not have made it on stage, prepared and ready for the audience. We all came from subtly different styles in Bharathanatyam and neighbouring dances, and we were exposed to different adavus, different logics. On occasion, some things just didn’t feel right. Ways of looking, ways of bending, ways of working with the rhythm, all of this was challenged by our varying ways. Yet, we gelled and came together, each learning something from the other. Each learning something off each other looking at our recordings!

Our final tech and stage rehearsel had some tense moments and that is not out of the norm! The spring has to be wound up and kept tight, till the moment of the performance, when it uncoils and all comes together finally!

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Even the running order on the big day was an experiment in itself. Kala Sangam has been experimenting the multicultural experiment for many years now. Sangam or the confluence of many was evident on the 19th of October at St. George’s Hall at Bradford. A variety of different performances, performances, genres, countries and cultures came together to signify a dance Olympiad of sorts!

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A magnificent grand venue, the Hall was apt for the inspiring speech that Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali gave, on the importance of a goal, a focus in our efforts in classical arts. Well said, Dr.Bali!

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Our Pushpanjali was the first item on stage after the welcome. Geethaji remarked that this was the first time in 20 years she had been able to sit down and witness her work! A telling remark! All of us were pleased that we were there, and it was a great atmosphere back stage. We were duly chaperoned by the Kala Sangam team to various exits and entrances, through the maze of a space backstage at St.Georges.

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Dr.Upadhaya has set her sights high, the Pushpanjali is set to become the start of more extensive collaborations! We would dearly love to have live orchestra on stage with us, what a difference that would have made at St. George’s! Fingers crossed! Next year, this time, we should have gone a step up – that would be a triumph of the Self over the rat-Self, the Self that takes part in the rat race 🙂

Chamu Kuppuswamy

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Geetha says:

    great to work with you beautiful dancers – the enthusiasm and commitment was so great ! yes will get live music for your next show – maybe for Maha Shivrathri 2014 !

    1. ckuppuswamy says:

      ooh..that would be quick, but worth a try!

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