World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Kalanjali: Dances of India

GENRE: Kathakali
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Katherine Kunhiraman
First Appearance in EDF: 1978

Kalanjali: Dances of India, founded in 1975, has performed across the US and offers classes locally. In 1978 Kalanjali opened the first San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and appeared many more times, both as a company, and with K.P. Kunhiraman as a soloist. From 1980 until recently, Kalanjali was supported by the California Arts Council to offer school performances, community teaching projects, folk festivals, and training for young artists. K.P. Kunhiraman was the first Indian to receive the National Endowment for the Arts prestigious Choreography Fellowship. The group has been recognized by local, national, and Indian entities. With graduates performing internationally, and a branch in India, a bridge between the two countries has been established.

Kalanjali is the dance company of Katherine and K.P. Kunhiraman, the 2014 Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Awardees. This is the annual award given by this Festival to an artist or artists of great artistic achievement through dance.


GENRE: Kathakali
TITLE: Vanavarnana

Their first piece presented is Vanavarnana, and we respectfully welcome back legend ary kathakali soloist, K.P. Kunhiraman. He performed Vanavarnana at our first Festival in 1978, a piece from kathakali dance-drama, the ornate 17th-century classical form. In a stylized repertoire of mudras and gestures involving eyes, eyebrows, mouth, neck and shoulders, kathakali dancers can translate every word of the ancient texts. Actions are loosely dictated by tradition, allowing for improvisation within the style and general story line, and musicians follow the dancer. Performances last all night, transporting audiences to the spiritual world.Here, the music is recorded, and this fine soloist expands and embellishes this story from hundreds-of-years-old palm leaf manuscripts:

A hero enters the forest through dense growth through which a hunterís arrow canít pass. He sees an elephant making its way, eating vines and fling dust onto its back. Nearby a huge python emerges from its hiding place, hungry and in search of prey. Spreading jaws wide, it seizes hold of the elephantís leg and begins to swallow it. The elephant roars in pain, awakening a hungry lion in search of food. Seeing the elephant held fast by the python, the lion flings itself onto its head and crushes it with sharp claws. The hero marvels at natureís laws, and takes a detour around.

GENRE: Bharatanatyam
TITLE: Tillana
CHOREOGRAPHER: Rukmini Devi Arundale (solo), Katherine Kunhiraman (group arrangement)
DANCERS: Kali Futnani, Vineela Ravva Poddatoori, Rani Ramrattan, Shanti Ramrattan, Priya Sreedharan, Tanusree Sreedharan, Vidya Sundaram, K.P. Yesodha
MUSICIANS: K.P. Ramesh Babu (mridangam), Barbara Framm (tambura), Katherine Kunhiraman (nattuwangam), Sreedev Rajagopalan (vocal), Easwar Ramakrishnan (violin), Vishnu Vijay (flute|

The second piece presented by Kalanjali is abharatanatyam tillana, which was added to the ancient repertoire several hundred years ago. In codified gesture, stance, and glance, this harmonious ensemble evokes the divine. Poses and poetic gestures create juxtapositions; and golden jewelry, jasmine flowers, painted hands and feet, and gold-threaded saris evoke the bridal finery of temple dancers. The choreographer is Rukmini Devi Arundale, pioneer in the resurrection of this ancient dance and founder of Kalakshetra. Originally a solo, this performance has group arrangements by Katherine Kunhiraman.


TITLE OF PIECE: Tillana / Raasleela
Katherine & K.P. Kunhiraman
Antara Aiama, Kali Futnani, Archana Ganapathi, Dipika Gopal, Minal Mehta, Meena Nair, Priya Pandurangi, Smitha Radhakrishnan, Rani Ramrattan, Shanti Ramrattan, Vineela Ravva, Divya Satia, Priya Shreedharan, Trishna Subas, Yesodha

Bharatanatyam is a very precise art. The choreography is made up of mathematically intricate footwork and geometrically precise poses flowing through the space. The mood of the songs and the poetry of the lyrics manifest through these technical elements Ė the use of abhinaya, an elaborate system of mime, and mudra, codified hand gestures.

Kalanjali presents a Tillana which is one of Bharatanatyam's chief repertoire. Traditionally a solo, this piece is transformed into a group dance which portrays the god Krishna as the divine spirit finding joy in shared love with his partner, Radha. In the company of her cow herder friends, they dance the shady lanes of Brindavan. With bells on his ankles, Krishna dances, accompanying these gopis on song and drum.

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