Our Achievers- Ratna Venkat

Spirituality lifts classical excellence

IWK Bureau – 

‘Life in a Full Circle’ was the title and theme of the Kuchipudi dance concert conceived and presented by Ratna Venkat at Dorothy Winston Centre, Auckland Grammar School on Saturday, April 9, 2016.

New Zealanders have witnessed Ratna’s versatile dance performances on numerous occasions at several corporate and community events and hence expectations were running high around ‘Life in a Full Circle.’

Ratna was not only the Master of the Evening but also the Master of Ceremonies, welcoming the audience and thanking sponsors.

Eloquent and Perfect

She eloquently explained each item before they were executed to perfection.

The accompanying musicians, experts in their chosen art form, ably supported Ratna.

our-achievers-ratna-venkat-invoking-blessings-of-mother-earth-webThe bringing together of classical and fusion orchestra under one roof was another first in this concert which by the use of quotes, expressions and spiritual connectedness always revolved under the central theme of life expressed as a full circle.

An important feature of this unique show was the introduction and display of ethnic jewellery from the Indian village where Kuchipudi originated.

Ratna adorned several pieces of this jewellery which were fashioned from light weight wood and especially hand-crafted for her. During her costume change intervals, we were also shown short videos of the artisans involved in the creation of these pieces, traditional origin of the dance centring around female impersonation, and the lifestyle of the people living in the villages where this dance form evolved.

Dance and Dialogue

Beginning the classical segment of the concert with a short invocation to Lord Ganesha and Mother Goddess, Ratna showed her mastery of Kuchipudi art form in the popular ‘Bama Kalapam’ and the standard ‘Mandooka Sapdam’ items.

Both were characterised by crisp dialogue delivery in Telugu which incidentally is not Ratna’s mother tongue.

In the first item, the personification of Satyabhama who was a strong, independent-minded queen with a dominating nature contrasted well with the portrayal of Gajendra, the elephant who was meek and helpless caught by the crocodile’s jaws in Mandooka Sapdam.

Endurance test

The highlight of the first half of the programme was ‘Tarangam,’ a 30-minute dance number which Ratna performed on a brass plate balancing with a pot of water on her head, holding the audience at the edge of their seats.our-acheivers-ratna-venkat-tarangam-web

The other items of the classical element were ‘Dasavataram,’ incorporating the ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu and a ‘Padam,’ depicting the longing of a lovesick woman.

The concept that Kuchipudi can truly adapt to emerging and contemporary situations without losing its unique identity was well explored in the ensuing dances after the short intermission.

Thus, the fusion segment included dancing for a song dedicated to Lord Jesus sung by Jeffrey Nathan, a Shirdi Sai Baba Bhajan rendered by Vidya Teke, an Amrapali number sung by Vishnu Priya Mallela and a multi-media presentation involving foot percussion.

Ratna aptly demonstrated that everything goes back to its origins when she resorted to classical items in the final stages of her concert.

‘Simhanandini,’ in which the dancer draws a figure in colour powder with her toes involved Ratna tracing a lion as part of her dance routine.

She drew a standing ovation.

The concert ended with a question mark ‘What Next?’ with a dance for a song by Poet Annamacharya.

With exquisite footwork, deep emotions and extensive research behind the selection of items and their presentation, Ratna transported us to a higher realm.

The above is an edited version of an article that appeared in Indian Weekender issue dated April 15, 2016.

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Photo Caption:

  1. Ratna Venkat invokes the Blessings of Mother Earth
  2. Tarangam, 30 minutes of non-stop, intricate dancing

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