Footsteps on the sands of time along a colourful journey
Second of Three Parts
Wenceslaus Anthony –
Ratna Venkat’s foray into the world of fusion began in 2012, when she met the Auckland based band ‘Gurus of Groove.’ Her suggestion to collaborate with them seemed unusual in the first instance since the band had no previous connection with classical dancers and were focused on playing Hindi and Western melodies.
However, the band, convinced of their own need to diversify and add variety to their performances, agreed to change their tune to the née concept.
“When I introduced this idea, they were a little uncertain as this was an entirely new concept. But after careful planning and countless rehearsals, we came together and inaugurated our fusion acts at the ‘Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards 2012’ in Auckland, at which the Guest of Honour was grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and Chakravarthy Rajagopalachari and former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.
“The response was overwhelming. The audience just loved our innovation as most of them had not seen this kind of fusion before,” Ratna said.
Her collaboration with the band significantly changed people’s views about classical dance and since then, she has been receiving regular requests from many national and local government agencies, multinationals, large companies and cultural organisations to perform both traditional and fusion dances at their events.
Following ‘Gurus of Groove’ of which she is now the band’s featured dancer at the annual ‘Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards,’ Ratna collaborated with ‘Idhayam,’ a Carnatic fusion group based in Wellington in 2014, and is a member of the newly formed ‘Sargam Fusion’ band in Auckland, comprising musicians from Carnatic, Hindustani and Western backgrounds.
She has also worked with international artistes including an exclusive music-dance duet with Tabla maestro Avirbhav Verma in 2013.
Ratna’s dancing abilities led her to make her mark as a musician too, notably as ‘foot-bell percussionist’ thanks to her training in the Maharashtrian folk dance Lavni, and the North Indian classical dance, Kathak.
Footwork is the hallmark of these two styles.
“Lavni and Kathak dancers are skilled in controlling the sound of their ghunguroos (ankle bells) and executing complicated rhythms on stage. Inspired by their dexterity, I wanted to incorporate this interesting element into my shows. In addition, I could contribute myself musically as a foot-bell percussionist to the band, and this has been welcomed by my co-artistes,” she said.
Besides her outstanding dance work, Ratna is a talented writer and an orator, and holds a graduate BA degree with double majors in Linguistics and Asian Studies from Massey University, New Zealand. She is Editor of ‘Artlink’, a section that she runs in Indian Newslink.’
She is also a part-time model promoting various hair care and beauty products.
Interestingly, she has merged her academic qualifications with her dancing ambitions, adding another feather to her already elaborate cap.
“My love for exploring cultures, languages and songs from different parts of the world has been apparent since my childhood, and now with a degree in Linguistics and Asian Studies, I have found ways to bridge my Indian dance styles with music styles from different cultures,” Ratna said.
Wenceslaus Anthony is the Chairman and Managing Director of WAML Group with interests in many countries including New Zealand, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. The above is the second in a series of three articles, which appeared in ‘Indus Age’ Australia, reproduced with the permission of the publication.