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Share Your Story: Kingsport hosts enchanting Indian classical dance performance

March 18th, 2014 1:14 pm by Dr. Guha Krishnaswamy, Community Contributor

Share Your Story: Kingsport hosts enchanting Indian classical dance performance

The Tri-Cities area was treated to an enchanting Indian classical dance performance by Bhavani and Ranjani Murthy and their troupe. The program was held in the Renaissance Center of Kingsport on March 1, under the auspices of the Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts.

Dancing to a packed and enthralled audience, Ranjani Murthy and Mrs. Murthy's other students performed to live orchestra - a rare treat for the viewers. Bhavani Murthy introduced the program, describing the origins of Bharatanatyam from "Bha" or Bhava/emotion/feeling, Ra or Ragam/Harmony, and Ta or Tala or rhythm. Bharatnatyam dates back to the third century treatise, Natya Shastra (or dance grammar and rules) - the work of the legendary Bharata Muni. Subsequent forms evolved from the art form developed by temple dancers (or devadasis).

Indian music and dance are typically spiritually based - and use mythologies and legends to present the greater truths of our existence and relationship to the Absolute. The central myth of Indian dance is the dancing deity, Shiva Nataraja - who, in his cosmic dance of creation and dissolution, represents each one of us in our innermost and pure non-egoistical nature. The cosmic dancer is shown dancing on the dwarf, known as Apasamara Purusha - who represents forgetfulness: each one of us forgets that the kingdom of heaven is truly within us and that because we are, the universe is. That spark of consciousness in each one of us that makes us and the world possible is nothing but an extension of the Absolute.

Ranjani Murthy has had her Graduation (Arangetram) in Bharatha Natyamratanatyam under renowned teachers Miss Bhanumathi and Smt.Sheela Chandrasekar of Bangalore, India. In the summer of 2005, at the age of 14, Ranjani performed her Arangetram (solo debut 2.5-hour performance) in Bangalore, India. She also had her Graduation in Kuchipudi (the other classical dance style) under Mrs. SandhyaSree Athmakuri of Michigan in 2007. Ranjani has performed solo recitals in the U.S.A. and India to critical acclaim and has won many state and national level competitions in the U.S.A.

Two dance forms were presented on this evening - Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. While the former was extensively developed in the State of Tamilnadu, in South India, the latter was an art form that took shape in the State of Andhra Pradesh, also in South India. Ranjani began the performance with a typical Ganesha Vandhana - an invocation to the Ganesha, the elephant deity symbolic of Pranava or Universal energy, and considered the remover of obstacles. This was a composition by the famous Oothukadu Venkatasubba Iyer and set to the raga Gambheera Nattai. This was followed by an exposition of the exquisite melody, Omkara Karini a composition by the famous musician, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna. These were choreographed carefully and beautifully performed by Ranjani Murthy in the Kuchipudi style of dance.

These pieces were followed by three short Bharatanatyam dances performed beautifully by students of Bhavani Murthy and local residents of the Tri-Cities, Vikram, Karuna and Vandana Nathan, Chandni Bhat and Saanvi Goenka. The first piece performed was the Pushpanjali - an offering of flowers with folded hands as a salutation to God, Guru and Audience. This was followed by the Alarippu - a presentation of rythmic sequences punctuated by simple syllables and by the Jathiswaram, where the percussion sets the beat. These were followed by a presentation of the Varnam (Sri Krishna Kamalanatho) in Reetigowla choreographed and performed outstandingly by Ranjani as the centerpiece and highlight of any Bharatha Natyam recital. Ranjani then did a Nataraja Padam in the form of a Sai Baba Bhajan that also showcased the rigorous Tandava aspect of Lord Nataraja, finishing with a short but fast-paced rhythmic piece Thillana. All the dancers concluded with a typical Mangalam - or peace chant.

The dancers were accompanied ably by a live orchestra composed of Anjana Nagaraja (vocal), whose voice can be referred to as having Kokila Kantam, Prasad Mantraratnam (violin) who played the violin melodiously supporting the vocalist, and Ajay Ravichandran (mridangham or percussion) whose strong rendition of the rhythms literally matched every rhythmic pattern of the dancers' feet. Bhavani Murthy, as the Guru, handled the cymbals and rolled out sollukattus effortlessly as part of the rythmic exercise referred to as Nattuvangam - an integral part of the dance program.

Share Your Story features stories written and contributed by our readers. Today's featured story, a review of the program on March 1, was written by Dr. Guha Krishnaswamy, a well-known Carnatic musician and a physician in the Johnson City area. It was submitted by Bhavani Murthy. If you'd like to submit your story for consideration, email it to: with Share Your Story in the subject line.

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