presented Sri Valli Thirumanam in Japan
I witnessed an amazing
performance on October 29, 2005 by Daya Tomiko who is a very well known
teacher trained by gurus VP Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan for the
last 20 years. She has been training many Japanese in Kyoto. I have been
attending her programs for the last few years and have been seeing her
dedication to the art. It is amazing to see a team of non-Indians performing
Bharatanaatyam with such
On this occasion I was very happy
to meet the gurus - for the first time - and talk to them. Having heard
so much about them, I got a golden opportunity to see them perform. It
was such a tremendous experience, I wanted to share it with my country
people and also encourage the young budding artists through these few words.
Kyoto is the cultural capital of
Japan. Its heritage monuments attract both national and international visitors.
This city has the best classical traditions and the special traditional
theatres like, Kabuki, Noh etc are supposed to be the pride of the nation.
Japanese in general are very tradition bound and extremely spic and span.
In the recent past, Kyoto has seen
tremendous interest in Indian performing arts with several schools of Bharatanaatyam,
Kathak and North Indian instrumental music.
Among such enthusiasts is Daya Tomiko
who has established Thanmaye-Nathyalaya. Celebrating the 15th year of founding,
she invited dancers and musicians from her inspirational alma mater Bharatakalanjali,
Chennai, to help her reproduce their Sri Valli, a dance drama choreographed
by the Dhananjayans. It was a totally professional
theatrical show with a matinee and
evening show. Both were houseful and the awe struck Japanese audience had
tears of joy in their eyes. Daya Tomiko deserves an encore cheer for her
meticulous presentation of an Indian dance drama with a group of amateur
The secret of her success, Daya says
she owes to her gurus, The Dhananjayans, for their full support and undemanding
co-operation, while the gurus say, “It is her complete discipline, devotion
and dedication that has won us over. When she came to us last December
and April, we suggested Sri Valli for its simplicity and interesting story
content, though Murugan story is not familiar like Krishna stories in Japan.
She took it very seriously, made pilgrimages to south Indian Murugan temples
to emulate spiritual
guidance. We were really surprised
at her dedication. She did learn all the choreography, made video and audio
recordings. When we reached Kyoto on 19th October, we were taken aback
seeing those Japanese girls in our traditional half sari practice costumes,
nice bright red pottu and the way
they went straight through a practice session. Daya had already prepared
them well without even changing a wee bit of our choreography. Really hats
off to her.”
The first half of the program was
traditional Bharatanaatyam repertoire starting with Ganesha Vandanam -
rearranged to suit the group presentation. Then Daya and Divya Sivasundar
from Bharatakalanjali presented the Nrutyopahaaram (varnam) on Ganesha,
for music set by T VGopalakrishnan.
Both of them performed it with perfect synchronization and distinct individuality.
Though Daya is in her fifties and Divya in
her twenties, they almost looked
like twin sisters on stage. The stories of Ganesha went well with
the Japanese audience. Next, the maestros’ appearance in a short Ashatapadi
titled Radha-Maadhavam enthralled the Japanese audience, more because of
the love hate
expressions of male-female feud.
They laughed when Radha asked Krishna to go away and really pitied Krishna
when he fell at her feet. The 15 minutes break after that item, witnessed
an amused audience whispering about the performance of the maestros. This
audience had not see anything like
that before; probably some of them have seen The Dhananjayans and their
son Satyajit in 1992, when they danced in Kyoto.
Starting with Thiruppugazh in the
typical south Indian Kurathi attire, the stage brightened with color. Valli’s
entrance, a ball playing dance sequence, Muruga’s dramatic appearance,
Valli’s love sickness, guru Dhananjayan as Vedan and later on as the old
man, finally Valli’s helpless plight seeing the elephant, the old man turning
into real Murugan, all that drama was easy to digest for an audience not
so familiar with Indian mythologies. Daya Tomiko used Japanese dialogue
for a dream scene and a well known stage actor acting as Nambirajan (Valli’s
father). Daya Tomiko as Valli and Divya Sivasundar as her friend Chitrangi,
danced with emotional clarity.
The live orchestra led by Shanta
Dhananjayan, very ably supported by Sasidaran (vocal), Rameshbabu (mridangam
& other percussions), Bhavani Prasad (veena) and Sunilkumar (flute),
impressed the audience. The curtain closed down to thunderous applause
finally when guru Dhananjayan announced
the honour of Naatyapoorna award and Ponnaadai to Daya Tomiko for
her service to Indian art and culture, the audience went
into rapture, with tears of joy
rolling down their rosy cheeks.
It was a rare treat for Kyoto city
and we wish such cultural extravaganzas happen more often to better the
cultural links between our two nations.