World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

FESTIVAL DANCERS

Vishwa Shanthi Dance Academy

DANCE ORIGIN: South India
GENRE: Bharatanatyam
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Shreelata Suresh
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2008
Website: www.vishwashanthi.org

Vishwa Shanthi Dance Academy was founded in 1999. Vishwa Shanthi means “universal peace,” and the company promotes universal peace through dance, yoga, and allied arts, restoring the sacred and spiritual significance of these arts by helping audiences appreciate them for more than their entertainment or physical value; as a means to elevate their consciousness. Shreelata Suresh teaches students the art form of bharathanatyam, which she considers a sacred art and a fusion of music, rhythm, sacred geometry, yoga, worship, therapy, sculpture, poetry, harmony and beauty.

2013 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: South India
GENRE: Bharatanatyam
TITLE: Prakriti (Abiding in Nature)
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Shreelata Suresh
DANCERS:
Pujitha Anur, Nisha Balaraman, Saatchi Bhalla, Janani Kumar, Bindu Nair, Savita Pillai, Sythara Radhakrishnan, Chandini Ramesh, Sameeha Rau, Shreelata Suresh

Prakriti - Abiding in Nature is a sacred bharatnatyam dance that celebrates and manifests the cycles and rhythms of nature. The piece is based on the Gandharva Veda, and it begins with chants from the Rig Veda, describing the original creation from darkness:

A thousand eyes and a thousand feet, Had the Cosmic man
He encompassed the entire universe, And exceeded it by a hand

And the dancers perform to create the world again. Wearing costumes with nature’s hues and temple jewelry, solo and group dances form geometric patterns to summon the elements. The dancers form a circle for space; star shape for wind; triangle for fire, semi-circle for water; and square for earth. They also evoke the rays of the sun, cycle of days, planetary movements, undulating rivers, strong lines of tall mountains, and the gentle blooming of flowers. The piece ends in a prayer, Shanthi mantra, from the Upanishads, an invocation for abiding life in nature, and everlasting harmony and peace.

Indian classical dance has ancient and divine origins. Long ago—to save humanity from its vices—Brahma created the Natya Veda, the fifth scripture, taking speech, music, expression, and aesthetic experience from the four existing Vedas. Then Sage Bharatha added dance movements he learned from Shiva; and Indian dance has been traced through artwork and literary works for at least 2,000 years.

Choreographer Shreelata Suresh says, “Dance is a sacred movement of the limbs with deep divine feeling. The songs are devotional love songs with the dancer as devotee and God as her beloved. There is so much competition from cinema and TV and ideas of western culture, where many people think of ancient dance as mere entertainment or recreation on the physical plane. Today, it’s only more important to emphasize the sacred nature of this dance.”

2012 PERFORMANCE

TITLE: Poorthi (Fulfillment)
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/ CHOREOGRAPHER: Shreelata Suresh
DANCERS: Sonali Aatresh, Pujitha Anur, Nisha Balaraman, Saatchi Bhalla, Ambika Gopalan, Bindu Nair, Savita Pillai, Chandini Ramesh, Sameeha Rau, Shreelata Suresh
MUSIC/LYRICS: P.R. Venkatasubramanian
RECORDED MUSICIANS: N.K. Kasavan (mridangam), Guru V. Krishnamoorthi (vocals/rhythmic syllables), T. Bhavani Prasad (veena), N. Srinivasan (flute), P.R. Venkatasubramanian (keyboard/special effects)
MUSICIANS:
Vani Suresh (temple bell), Anupama Ramesh (veena)

Poorthi (Fulfillment), is the story of the beautiful Queen Shantala Devi. The music for this performance was composed and recorded in 2006, using traditional instruments, as part of a dance drama that will debut in 2009. The original choreographer is Shreelata Suresh, and the piece was adapted for this stage.

In the 12th century, in present-day Karnataka, India, King Vishnuvardhana commissioned the construction of the Chennakeshava temple for Lord Vishnu. Inspired by his queen, he planned an exquisite dance hall with twelve sculptures of dancers and musicians. The King died after the eleventh sculpture was installed, the kingdom fell into turmoil, and construction stopped. As years passed, his queen—Queen Shantala Devi—grew restless, and one night, in her dream, she entered the incomplete dance hall. She heard music, and danced as an offering to the Lords Vishnu and Shiva—

Oh Lord Vishnu, you danced so gracefully in your feminine form of Mohini.
Seeing this, Lord Shiva, God of Dance, complemented you by dancing with vigor.
And together you danced with joy.
We sing your praises. Om Namo Narayana!

The Queen's sheer joy and ecstasy brought the 11 stone dancers to life. When the song ceased, Queen Shantala Devi became the twelfth sculpture, completing the temple and fulfilling her desire to remain a dancing devotee.


2009 PERFORMANCE

Titles: Jathiswaram, Pushpanjali
Choreographer/Soloist: Shreelata Suresh

In honor of People Like Me's 15th Anniversary (World Arts West's arts education program), Shreelata Suresh performs as a soloist in the abbreviated version of Return of the Sun, the story of Amaterasu, the Japanese Sun Goddess. She adapts two bharatanatyam dances for her role as Goddess of Dawn.

Shreelata's first piece is Jathiswaram (danced to create the mirror for the Sun Goddess), an example of the pure dance form of bharatanatyam. Usually danced as the second piece in a performance, the choreography is simple, introducing the audience to basic movements and postures. As the dance progresses, the dancer performs increasingly complex steps, displaying her skill. Jathiswaram is based on Carnatic music—the South Indian classical music using composed melodies, ragas, and improvisation—and the dance follows the improvised melodies of the musicians. This form originated with dancers who loved the exceptional beauty of Carnatic music, and wanted to respond to it with their own art form. In Jathiswaram, the dancer blends sequences of rhythmic syllables—expressed in footwork, gesture, and posture—that follow the instrumentalists' rhythmic cycles and melodic phrasing.  

Shreelata's second piece, Pushpanjali, (danced to entice the Sun Goddess out of her cave) is another bharatanatyam pure dance item. In Sanskrit, pushpam means "flower" and anjali means "offering with folded hands." Here the dancer offers flowers to Mother Earth; then she offers her respects and invokes the gods controlling the eight directions. She offers respect to her guru as well as respect and welcome to the audience. The dance concludes with pure dance movements in a rhythmic sequence.

2008 PERFORMANCE

 

TITLE: Poorthi (Fulfillment)
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/ CHOREOGRAPHER
: Shreelata Suresh
DANCERS:
Sonali Aatresh, Nisha Balaraman, Ambika Gopalan, Anupama Mandya, Bindu Nair, Sarika Patel, Savita Pillai, Divya Ramakrishnan, Sveta Shandilya, Priya Sohoni, Shreelata Suresh, Ganesh Vasudeva
MUSIC/LYRICS:
P.R.Venkatasubramanian
RECORDED MUSICIANS:
Guru V. Krishnamoorthi (vocals/rhythmic syllables), T. Bhavani Prasad (veena), N. Srinivasan (flute), N. K. Kesavan (mridangam), P. R. Venkatasubramanian (keyboard/special effects)
MUSICANS:
Hrishikesh Chary (veena) and Shoba Gopalan (bells)

Poorthi (Fulfillment), is the story of the beautiful Queen Shantala Devi. The music for this performance was composed and recorded in 2006, using traditional instruments, as part of a dance drama that will debut in 2009. The original choreographer is Shreelata Suresh, and the piece was adapted for this stage.

In the 12th century, in present-day Karnataka, India, King Vishnuvardhana commissioned the construction of the Chennakeshava temple for Lord Vishnu. Inspired by his queen, he planned an exquisite dance hall with twelve sculptures of dancers and musicians. The King died after the eleventh sculpture was installed, the kingdom fell into turmoil, and construction stopped. As years passed, his queen—Queen Shantala Devi—grew restless, and one night, in her dream, she entered the incomplete dance hall. She heard music, and danced as an offering to the Lords Vishnu and Shiva—

Oh Lord Vishnu, you danced so gracefully in your feminine form of Mohini.
Seeing this, Lord Shiva, God of Dance, complemented you by dancing with vigor.
And together you danced with joy.

We sing your praises. Om Namo Narayana!

The Queen's sheer joy and ecstasy brought the 11 stone dancers to life. When the song ceased, Queen Shantala Devi became the twelfth sculpture, completing the temple and fulfilling her desire to remain a dancing devotee.

 

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