The city will see a unique dance event tomorrow. Over 275 students of well-known danseuse Urmila Sathyanarayanan, will be performing together at Narada Gana Sabha to mark the 20th anniversary of their dance school, Natya Sankalpaa.
“There have been shows with students from various schools coming together for an event, but to the best of my knowledge, no individual dance school in Chennai has done a show on this scale with their own students so far,” begins Urmila, who adds, “Recently, in June this year, we had our school’s 100th arangetram, for which all the 100 students who have had their arangetrams so far performed together.”
But this show will have every student — from beginners to those who have done their arangetrams — taking part. Only a few students who are not in the country or tied up with some other work could not be included in this event.”
Coincidentally, this year also happens to be MS Subbulakshmi‘s centenary year, and 20 years ago, it was the iconic singer who lit the lamp and inaugurated the dance school! So, Urmila says that she and team decided that the show should also act as their tribute to her. “We are staging two dancing presentations at this event, and both will have an association with MS Amma,” says the danseuse.
The first production, Meera — The Lotus Of Prem, will have MS’s evergreen melodies like Kaatrinile Varum Geetham, Brindavanathil and Engum Niraindhaye. This will have 24 dancers, including Urmila. “All the dancers in this production, which has music by Rajkumar Bharati, have completed their arangetrams and have been performing for the past few years,” says Urmila.
The next production, titled Bhavayami Raghuramam, will feature a whopping 263 dancers, and also live musicians. “Bhavayami Raghuramam, as we know, is the story of the Ramayana by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. It is also identified with MS Amma. We will be performing key sequences from the Ramayana, like the swayamvaram, Soorpanaka incident, Sethu bandhanam and of course, the maha yuddham, and these have been divided among the various students. Different sets of students will be performing the swaras and jathis, while a few sets of students will be elaborating the story of the epic,” elaborates the dancer.
She feels that it is perhaps because very few dance institutions — “barring the government institutions like Kalakshetra” — have their strength (they have 300 students on their rolls) that an event on such a huge scale has hardly been attempted so far. She says that the main challenge in doing this event was in choosing students for particular performances based on their age and capacity. “We started rehearsals by the end of March. Getting the costumes and makeup in place also took time and effort,” she signs off.