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Multi-media background helps, says danseuse

Photo: C.V.Subrahmany;am

Kuchipudi exponent, Sarala Kumari

"There is no change in the perception of either the learners or the viewers of pure classical dance. It still commands the respect as it had 25 years ago but when it comes to ballets, the outlook of the choreographers has changed for the worse over the years," opines the founder of Saral's Natyaastthal, Sarala Kumari, who has been giving stage performances and training dancers for over 25 years now.

Sarala, who is also a trained beautician, was in Visakhapatnam last week, on the invitation of the Jana Shikshan Sansthan, to give tips to candidates who were pursuing the beautician course.

"There is nothing wrong in mixing classical, western and other forms of dance in ballets. But it is wrong to presume that the audience could be taken for a ride by throwing all norms to the wind. The body movements should be in tune with the subject of the ballet in question," she says. "The multi-media can be used to full advantage to change the background scenes in the presentation of ballets. Besides saving on time, the use of multi-media provides continuity to the programme. In other words, it eliminates the need for `breaks' to facilitate change of scenes."

She does not agree with the view that the change of background during the ballet would distract the viewer. Such a situation impels the dancers to perform better and retain the attention of the audiences towards themselves.

Sarala, who had her `arangetram' in 1977, has given about 1,500 stage performances in different parts of India and abroad. Between 1978 and 1998 she gave performances in Cuba, the USSR, Mauritius, Madagascar, the UK, the US, Canada, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Italy, Turkey, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland and the Arab countries.

She was stole the limelight with her 24-hour non-stop marathon dance performance on February 1 and 2, 1985 at Ravindra Bharati in Hyderabad. She claims to be the first to use multi-media in ballets about five years ago. She choreographed a number of ballets including `Turiyam' which means `the ultimate'. It depicts the seven stages of human life.

Her `Rhapsody in rhythm' is a ballet on cloning. The story goes like this... A young boy is in love with a beautiful girl and wants to present her a red rose to express his love. To his surprise, he finds not one but 10 girls resembling his lover. Unable to decide whom to give the rose, he places it at the feet of God... "Though cloning can create duplicates, the heart cannot be replicated," she says.

Sarala, who believes in spirituality, feels that ancient scriptures, from which most of the ballets are drawn, should be studied for getting greater depth in expressions. "We have 100 tarangas of which 75 per cent have been left untouched," she says.

Her `Dakshinavrutha Sankham' showcases the 1,008 holy conches on the stage, which echo the pious Omkaram "OM" sound and depict the story of the conches used by Lord Krishna, the Buddha, Raghavendra Swamy and others. Her individual items, which are a big draw, include the `Alimelu Manga Vilasam', `Ardha Naareeswara', `Bhama Kalapam', etc.

She advocates the use of dance ballets to deal with the delicate issue of promoting sex education among school children and youth.

Sarala was adjudged as `beauty queen' four times and crowned `Miss Andhra' in 1983. She was given a number of titles including the `Natya Mayuri', `Natya Kala Bharathi', `Natya Ratna' and `Natya Rani'. The AP State Cultural Council presented her the `Hamsa award' for her achievements in the field of dance.

"In my younger days, I had acted in the films `Dana veera sura Karna' and `Sangharshana' on the insistence of some friends in the film industry but I gave it up later to pursue my career in dance. Now, I am planning to don the grease paint once again and act in movies and TV serials," says the danseuse.

B.M.G.

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