Abhinaya Dance Festival Captivates Bay Area audience  

By: Rashmi Sharma Singh
INDOlink West Coast Bureau; July 5, 2000

"Natya Mahotsava" - Tribute to 20 years of Abhinaya Dance Company in the South Bay

On July 1 & 2, the community of Abhinaya Dance Company and Mythili Kumar put together an impressive dance festival at the Mexican Heritage Gardens in San Jose.

"Dance Mahotsava is essentially a tribute: to the school, to all our students past and current, to our various donors, to our innumerable volunteers, to our artistic collaborators, and to our guest artists who have in from India especially for the occasion," explained Mythili Kumar.

The guests from India were two marvelous master teacher artists, Guru Kalaimamani Smt. Indra Rajan (Mythili Kumar’s own teacher in her youth in India), and Padmabhushan Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan, the foremost exponent of Abhinaya in India. Each presented graceful dance solos that were a rare treat to watch and were well-received by the audience. Equally beautiful to witness off-stage was the Indian tradition of guru appreciation, spanning three generations, which is being kept alive by young and old in the South Bay.

Many of the selections presented at the festival by Abhinaya Dance Company were pieces choreographed for and presented at other occasions. There were selections from Gandhi the Mahatma, The Ramayana , The Power of Saturn and The Guru. While there was clearly some progress on the part of some of Mythili’s students, others were equally labored as the first time around. Neither the beautiful and brightly-colored costumes, nor the ostentatious jewelry worn by all dancers were able to compensate for a lack of skill in some young dancers. The lighting was equally unimpressive, although given the logistical details that go with work entailed in a two-day festival, this may have been overlooked.

An occasional jarring note in the cultural events was the cell-phone jingles of some thoughtless audience members. In the future, a request by Kumar/the MC to the audience to observe etiquette by turning phones off, or to buzzer mode, may be a simple remedy. This jarring and needless irritation of cell phones ringing is also a slight to the hard work of the performers, and took away from the pleasurable flow of the dance performances.

Accompanying the dancers were well-known musicians such as P V Natarajan, Asha Ramesh, Srilakshmi Kollavenu, Rajeshwari Satish, N Narayanan, Srikanth Chari. While the music by artists was excellent on its own, sometimes it was difficult to figure out which was meant to be the primary focus – the dance, or the music. The flutist in one piece was clearly not adept at keeping time with the other musicians.

One of the most impressive solo dance performances, in addition to that of Abhinaya Dance Company founder Mythili Kumar herself, was from Kuchipudi dancer Jyotirmayi Lakkaraju. This software engineer is a superb Kuchipudi dancer. It was a pleasure to see her excellent and lively interpretations of Pushpanjili, Jatiswaram, and Annamacharya Keerthanas.

The Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose has come a long way from its beginning twenty years ago, to now being one of the foremost and best-recognized schools of classical dances from India, and deserves congratulations on its well-deserved success.