A kaleidoscope of dances, costumes and colours in the making

Anuradha Ramkumar prepares a visual extravaganza to AR Rahman’s tunes
Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland July 20 and July 21

Venkat Raman
Auckland, June 26, 2024

Dance and music enthusiasts can expect an evening of colour, costumes, music and dance as Anuradha Ramkumar, the doyenne of artistic gurus presents under the banner of her dance school, Nrityabhinaya, a cultural extravaganza at Dorothy Winstone Centre at Auckland Girls Grammar School on July 20 and 21, 2024.

Titled ‘Bha Ra Tha,’ an acronym for Bhava (Emotions), Raga (Melody) and Tala (Rhythm), the programme is expected to be a blend of many popular dance formats of India, including Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Kathak.

Ms Ramkumar said that the programme will be the first of its kind in New Zealand and that she has chosen the compositions of Alla Rakha (AR) Rahman, a top music director of the Indian film industry with six National Film, Two Academy (Oscar), two Grammy, 15 Filmfare (National) and 17 Filmfare (South) Awards to his credit in addition to a British Academy Film (Golden Globe) Award.

Creativity of Bharat

“This show brings together the sheer diversity of creative expression of Bharat (India) in language, dance, colour, costume and culture. From Kathak to Kathakali, Gujarati to Kannada, Classical to Folk, we journey through the motherland in awe of what the land has given us. Our scriptures refer to sound as the primordial force of creation and dance, in particular, the highest form of human expression. Man has taken these from nature and scientifically structured their evolution to express the entire gamut of human emotion. But despite these principles underpinning all expressions of music and dance over time, today we quarrel about them. Old vs New. Classical vs Fusion. Bharatanatyam vs Bollywood,” Ms Ramkumar said and asked, “Can there ever be an end to these divisions if the difference is all we choose to see?”

More than 100 students of Nrityabhinaya will participate in the event, replete with professionally choreographed sequences, lilting music and a digital backdrop.

Her students say that Ms Ramkumar has spared nothing to make Bha Ra Tha an event to remember and a cultural rhapsody to create a benchmark and set fresh records.

Many students of Nrityabhinaya, Anuradha’s School of Indian Dances have grown to become professional dancers performing all over the world (Indian Newslink File Photo of the 2006-2007 students)

Oneness of the many

Ms Ramkumar said that it is time to recognise the fundamental in the multitude, the one in the many, and the unity in diversity.

“Bharat is recognised and appreciated for its diversity in culture, art, languages, costumes and cuisines, yet stands as one and portrays inclusiveness. This show is based on AR Rahman’s compositions in six prominent Indian languages – Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Gujarati. Just to enhance the magnitude of languages, India accounts for more than 19000 dialects and 22 official languages. This linguistic plurality is what strengthens the functionality of Bharat,” she said.

Ms Ramkumar promises that Bha Ra Tha will be a journey across India, during which spectators will be able to understand the primacy of dance and music that have shaped the regional cultures of the country over time.

“We will showcase Lagna Sringar Pradarshan, unveiling the beauty of Indian brides from different regions. Weddings in India add to the cultural extravaganza and are a feast for the eyes and soul. The bridal costumes and cultural props will be captivating,” she said.

According to her, while time and space may change the expression, the essence endures.

“Ancient or Modern, North or South, Classical or Cinematic, all that dance intends is to express and inspire emotion. Cultural Diversity fuels human development and art is the ultimate celebration and embracer of different cultural traditions,” she said.

For more than 20 years, Anuradha Ramkumar has been presenting her students on national and international platforms, showcasing Indian classics in her inimitable style with a backdrop of exquisite stage props, music and dance (A 2008 Poster of ‘Krishna’ from INL Archives)

About Anuradha Ramkumar

If the performance of pupils bespeaks the calibre of a teacher, there is ample proof of a justifiably proud pedagogue in Auckland in Anuradha Ramkumar.

From various centres in India, Dubai, New Zealand and the rest of the world, her students have been ebullient ambassadors of the Subcontinent’s rich culture and heritage, told in the art form of Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi and many other dance formats.

Considered an exponent in the two oldest and most popular styles of Indian Classical dance, she has been on the stage all over the world.

A recipient of several prestigious awards and citations for her contribution to the celebrated Indian art, Ms Ramkumar has established and managed dance schools successfully in India, Dubai and New Zealand since 1986. Notable among these is her membership to the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the King’s New Year Honours List 2024 and the Special Wenceslaus Anthony Special Award at the Eighth Annual Indian Newslink Sports, Community, Arts and Culture Awards 2022.

Anuradha Ramkumar received the Wenceslaus Anthony Indian Newslink Special Commemoration Award at the Eighth Annual Indian Newslink Sports, Community, Arts and Culture Awards held on June 20, 2024 at Mahatma Gandhi Centre, Auckland (INL File Photo). As a part of the New Year Honours List 2024, King Charles made her a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)

Today, Anuradha’s School of Indian Dances, located in Auckland’s Greenbay Bay, boasts of several nationalities including Kiwis, evincing abiding interest in the art.

Her students have performed in New Zealand, UK, Europe, USA, Canada, India, Taiwan, Japan and other countries, participating in major events including those of the World Organisation of Music and Dance, the Civic Theatre opening ceremony, Festival of Asia, Festival of India, the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Celebration of Performing Arts, Chinese New Year, Chinese International Festival, Korean Society, Malaysian Association, Rotary International, Pasifika Fashion Awards and other cultural associations.

“The institution aims to provide maximum exposure to Indian classical dance forms in New Zealand, train and provide tutelage to students in keeping with the spirit and ethos of classicism but in consonance with contemporary taste and sensibility,” Ms Ramkumar said.

The forthcoming performances (July 20 and July 21) would inspire students, teachers and the public interested in understanding and perceiving Classical and folk dances in their sublime form.

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