Washington DC Metro Area's Natananjali School of Dance Stages Spectacular Annual Show

By Bharati Mitra

Editor's Note: The author is the head of Tagore Music Group of Greater Washington DC who have been staging innovative musicals, dance dramas and plays across the USA. They performed their production "Arupratan" at North American Bengali Conference ("Banga Sammelan") and their new production "Chobi - A Musical" was critically acclaimed for it's pioneering fusion of Rabindranath Tagore and Burmese folk dance forms. You can listen to our interview with Bharati Mitra here.

Indian Classical Dance Performance by members of Natananjali School of Dance, Bethesda, Maryland

Performance by Natananjali School of Dance

At her school’s 2012 Annual Dance Show, Lakshmi Swaminathan, Dance Director and Proprietor of Bethesda-based Natananjali School of Dance (www.natananjali.com), demonstrated the level of discipline, determination, talent and vision usually found in a Fortune 500 Company CEO. The show, staged on December 8 at the JCCGW Kreeger Auditorium in Rockville Maryland, was as professional as it was enjoyable and educational.

Indian Classical Dance Performance by members of Natananjali School of Dance, Bethesda, Maryland

Indian Classical Dance Performance by members of Natananjali School of Dance, Bethesda, Maryland

Regular attendees of Natananjali’s shows know that “Lakshmi reaches new heights with every one of these performances.” The dance items were near perfect with vibrant yet traditional costumes, well-orchestrated and graceful movements, creative choreography and subtle yet fine-tuned expressions. It was quite obvious that hours of rigorous training and dedication, both from the teacher as well as each student, were behind such perfection.

The theme Bhaashaa (Language) was rather unique. The dances, based on ten of India’s nineteen recognized languages: Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali and even Braja Bhaasha, demonstrated that the people of a nation may speak different languages, but their culture, and communication via bodily movements in a dance, can convey the same message throughout.

Indian Classical Dance Performance by members of Natananjali School of Dance, Bethesda, Maryland

Variety was the spice of this program’s life. Twenty-one dances (mostly Vandana, or praise of deities), each based on a different Indian classical Raga (mood), performed each time in a new language by a new number of dancers, stirred interest in the audience, there never being a dull moment. The storm of applause after each item obviously came from the heart. For sure, such pleasures will not vanish with the fall of the curtain but will remain in the minds of the audience and become part of the dancers’ lives.

As Jaya Janaki Ramana, a Sanskrit verse describing the glory of Lord Vishnu (in his incarnations as Rama and Krishna), performed by nine dancers came to an end, graceful Medha Swaminathan performed her solo Keshadi Padam, a beautiful Abhinaya-based dance in Malayalam, in praise of Lord Krishna. This was followed by a six-dancer composition in a folksy tune praising the Tamil god Lord Muruga. As I was getting very impressed by the variety and novelty of each item, lo and behold, a Meerabai’s Bhajan (bhajan means praise, mainly of Lord Krishna) in Braja Buli was thrown right in there at an opportune moment, performed exquisitely by Abhiksha Desai.

Very unexpected, I was pondering. Little did I know that the next moment a group dance by seven senior students would be announced! I laughed in spite of myself in excitement… it was none other than Nobel-laureate Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore’s famous song describing the onslaught of Winter… aptly choreographed and energetically performed. What a repertoire! It felt funny to cry right after I had laughed!

Lakshmi used over forty of her students during December 8th evening’s performances, allowing several of them to perform in more than one dance. All the way at the end of the show, the thought that went through my mind when this large number of dancers united on stage to a short Vedic chant was that their Guru had not only taught them how to express themselves through dance, but also imparted invaluable lessons in discipline, team work, time management and organization.
In addition, they learned how to care about the less fortunate.

Indian Classical Dance Performance by members of Natananjali School of Dance, Bethesda, Maryland

This show would have been a wonderful example of promoting Indian culture throughout the Greater Washington DC area, and as such highly commendable, if Lakshmi Swaminathan, dance director and proprietor of Natananjali had stopped at this being just her dance school’s annual performance. However, Lakshmi went above and beyond all expectations by making this a fund-raiser for Prajwala. Prajwala, an anti-trafficking organization based in India, believes in preventing women and children from entering prostitution, the worst form of sexual slavery. Every year hundreds of thousands of young adults and children are traded in the guise of jobs, marriage, film roles, modeling and love. Trafficking is a violation of several human rights - among them, the very right to life, the right to liberty and security of person, the right to freedom from torture or cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to a home and family, the right to education and proper employment, the right to health care – everything that makes for a life with dignity. We should be very proud that Lakshmi, her students and their parents, as well as the attendees of this show have contributed so richly towards an effort to end this criminal conspiracy to exploit human vulnerability. We hope that Natananjali will continue to evoke generosity, thoughtfulness and sympathy towards the less fortunate during each holiday season as they did this year and continue to set similar examples to the community at large.

Indian Classical Dance Performance by members of Natananjali School of Dance, Bethesda, Maryland