Titled ‘Krishna Leela’ the dance drama was produced by what is probably this country’s most well-known Indian classical dance school, Anuradha’s School of Dance, also known as ‘Nrityabhinaya’, which imparts education in two of southern India’s classical dance forms – Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. The three-hour spectacle lived up to – even exceeded – the high standards that the school has set for itself in its past productions, which, indeed, were excellent in themselves.

More than a hundred students of the school participated in the production that catalogued the life of Lord Krishna from the challenging circumstances of His birth to the central role he played in the great battle of Kurukshetra. The different episodes were stitched together seamlessly – for instance, the Lord growing up from a baby to a young man was executed brilliantly with students of different ages, each playing out a different episode one after another.

As is usual in all of the school’s previous productions, the choice of music to base the choreography on was brilliant and apt, perfectly suiting the mood and circumstance of the episode being depicted. Guru Anuradha Ramkumar, the school’s founder and head, personally choreographed and directed the show guiding the hundred plus participants across several months of gruelling practice.

The raags on which the songs were based matched the emotion of each episode, though the words were lost on those not familiar with the language. But Lord Krishna’s stories are so universally popular across the length and breadth of India and among the Indian diaspora worldwide, that not understanding the lyrics does not interfere with following the story in any way, except in that one may be denied the beauty of the lyricism per se.

The star of the performance, also the school’s star student, the very talented Abhishek Ravi, was his usual utterly graceful, technically superb, energetic self. The intricately, colourfully costumed participants of a range of ages complemented by the video backdrop and some excellent lighting effects were a treat for the senses.

It was wonderful to watch such a show after a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. The school’d last show was Suryaputra Karna, based on the life of one the central characters of the epic Mahabharata.

At the end of Krishna Leela, the 100-odd participants gathered on the stage for an emotional thanks to their beloved Guru Anuradha, led by Abhishek, who, it was announced, will be pursuing further studies in dance and performing arts in Australia and further afield.

First appeared in The Indian Weekender 14 October 2022