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Shakthi - Female strength takes center stage

by Sharmishta Koushik


Phoenix, AZ: On Sunday, March 31, Mayuri Dance Group and a trio of musicians trained in Indian classical art forms came together to celebrate female strength. “Shakthi--The Power Within,” a thematic recital of music and dance, explored the many aspects of Shakthi, the supreme Goddess in Hindu mythology. The show, held at Arnette Scott Ward Performing Arts Center in Chandler, explored the mythological, historical, and the personal manifestations of the goddess.


The musicians comprising Veena artist Vasumathi Ram, mridangam artist Vaidyanathan Krishnamoorthy, and jaltarang artist Madhumitha Sowndararajan regaled audiences with an instrumental rendition of famous krithis celebrating the Goddess. A highlight of the evening was a demonstration of the jaltarang, an ancient Indian instrument that uses ceramic bowls, water, and sticks to create musical notes.


The artistes of Mayuri Dance Group showcased, through Bharatanatyam and Kathak, four female characters representing the grit and strength of Shakthi. Sanaja Manoj portrayed Unniyarcha, a legendary warrior from Kerala. Aparna Venki portrayed Kannagi, the Tamil epic Silappadikaram’s enraged protagonist, who cursed the city of Madurai for the wrongful execution of her husband. Deepa Anil Sankar portrayed Nangeli, a lower-caste woman who cut off her breasts in protest against the inhumane breast tax levied in 19th century Travancore. Finally, Preethi Sundaram played Draupadi, the Indian epic Mahabharata’s brave queen who vowed revenge against her abusers.


The dancers also depicted how women can tap into this spirit of Shakthi within themselves in the face of modern evils such as body-image issues and sexual harassment. The portrayal of Draupadi, for instance, included an excerpt from the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise,” which shone a light on modern-day Draupadis--survivors of sexual harassment who spoke up against their powerful aggressors in the Me-too movement.


The evening’s guest of honor was Anjali Desai, a well-known Kathak guru in the Valley. Proceeds from the day’s event went to Maggie Place, a non-profit in Maricopa county that provides programs and services to support pregnant women, parenting women, and their children.


Article by : Sharmishta Koushik  – Email : sharmishta@gmail.com (pic see below gallery)