Sunday, February 16, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report - Dance of Heritage Review of Dhirana Feb. 15th 2014 Indian Classical Dance Competition

Dance of Heritage
Review of Dhirana Feb. 15th 2014 Indian Classical Dance Competition

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Feb. 16 2014

Stories of the Indian culture and Hindus religion were brought to life Saturday night with lively dancing, bright costumes, and ethnic music. Eight college teams from across the country gathered at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus for Dhirana 2014, an Indian classical dance competition. The very unique routines included grace like a ballet, transitioning floor work similar to a marching band, dramatic energy akin to Broadway musicals, and multi-level formations that were almost cheerleader-like. The dancing was amazing and unlike anything I have ever seen.

Natya from Rutgers University
Winning 1st place and the Most Traditional Dance Award, Natya from Rutgers University showcased the story of how the Hindu deity Genesha came to have the body of a man and head of an elephant. The way the team created a formation to portray the elephant flapping its ears and trunk was very creative. Second place Pulse from Georgia Tech brought big time intensity of fast moving floor work to the competition with the theme of “Ravana: The Tragic Hero.” Some of the other themes included “Pandora’s Box” by Boston University’s Dheem, “Navarasas (9 Emotions) After the Storm” by Johns Hopkins University’s Shakti, and “Ravanasura’s Fall to Rama” by Penn State’s Natya.

Indian classical dance is very different from Western styles. Compared to ballet, which emphasizes leg action, a still upper body, lightness, high jumps, and pointed toes, Indian dance utilizes very active upper body movement, expressive hand and facial gestures, bent legs, low jumps, flat feet and intricate stamping foot work. Both styles have one very important aspect in common though. They both require masterful control to execute the dances with fluidity and grace.

Moksha from University of Maryland
(3rd Place)
Indian Classical Dance has a rich heritage dating back to 2nd century B.C. and broadly encompasses two main aspects. Nritta, pure dance, is the expression of rhythmic movement primarily through the use of hands and feet mostly in specific poses. Nitrya is more of an interpretative dance which uses gestures and facial expressions to show the poetic or emotional meaning in combination with rhythmic gaits and postures. Specific Indian dance styles showcased in this competition included Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathak, Kathakali, Mohiniattam, and Manipuri. These styles utilize elaborate prescribed postures of the torso, hands, neck and even eyes. They also involve intensive footwork, acrobatic energy, and very stylized pantomime.

Nrityamala from
University of Pittsburgh
The competition also featured several exhibition acts. The show opened with world renowned Carnatic vocalist Arthi Kumar singing Prayer Song, accompanied by violin and percussion. The host dance team, Nrityamala, performed two classical dance routines including “Pushpanjali.” Two local teams also performed, showcasing more contemporary styles from Western India that are very high energy dances. PantheRass danced in the Garba and Raas styles, which utilized props and acrobatics. And Steel City Bhangra danced in the popular Punjabi folk dance style Bhangra.

The dancing was amazing and unlike anything I had ever seen before, but also impressive were the students who hosted the event. Not only did they plan, produce, and dance at the event, but the hosting Pitt University students also chose to donate the proceeds to Birmingham Free Clinic, the only local free healthcare provider. They also honored the memory of “Vasu” Srinivasa Prasad Gutti, who was not only a local, but worldwide champion of South Asian Performing Arts. Srinivasa Prasad International Fund for the Performing Arts (SPIFPA), the foundation created in tribute to his legacy, was the lead sponsor of Dhirana 2014.

I’d like to say a great big “Thank You!” to Mrs. Cardiology, Sunita Pandit and her husband Dr. Santosh Pandit for not only the invitation to attend this great event, but also sharing their cultural and religious insight throughout the show.

By: Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014