Celebrating Indian Culture
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Watching the performers from the Shambhavi International School of Kathak is like watching colors come to life in a rhythmic, perfectly timed, powerful
The costumes, the choreography, and the music are weaved together to tell a story by using unique hand movements, footwork, and facial expressions. It’s a story that will be told during a show at Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday, September 29, at 7:30 p.m.
Horizons…Kathak and Beyond will be performed in Fort Wayne for the first time ever.
“They usually only come to metro areas in the United States, but we are fortunate enough to be able to bring them here,” explained Sudhakar Krishnan. He’s part of the Shruti Fort Wayne Indian Cultural Society, which was instrumental in bringing the troupe all the way from India.
Preeti Jain also belongs to Shruti and says she and other members feel strongly that part of their mission is to share different cultures, promote diversity, and highlight fine arts within the community.
The society is part of the Sangam Charitable Foundation which has been around for many years, but recently became more active. They’re all volunteers who have a common desire to serve.
“I’m truly honored to be living in this city that celebrates so much culture and recognition of the performing arts,” Jain said.
“Our goal was to introduce it to the community,” said Shruti president Vijay Chilakamarri. “We all grew up with this and we knew where to find these concerts. But they were only happening in bigger cities. We wanted to introduce it to people in smaller cities who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to see these shows — especially the students.”
This is the seventh season for the partnership between Purdue Fort Wayne and Shruti. The series initially focused on instrumental shows, but soon featured dancers.
“This program, we actually bring in instrumental music in the spring and a dance program in the fall,” Chilakamarri said. “That was not the intention when we started, but it evolved. There was a performance my daughter was in, and the chancellor and dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts saw my daughter’s group dance and wanted to see more. The first program was well-appreciated, so we started doing more.”
“It’s an exhilarating evening of dance,” said John O’Connell, the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue Fort Wayne. “There are just beautiful costumes and they change them often during the show. There is lots of foot tapping, so there are microphones at the front of the stage to enhance that. They wear cymbals on their ankles and they have specific hand gestures. These performers are classically trained for many years because it’s very intricate work.”
“The costumes are very bright and they’re coordinated,” Krishnan said. “Each dance has a different significance, so they change their costumes accordingly.”
“This type of dance is expressed with vivid emotions through the dancers’ eyes, intricate movements with their entire body and astonishing feet,” Jain said.
Bringing dance troupes like this to the Purdue Fort Wayne campus can be challenging. There can be language barriers and, of course, lots of travel for members of the Shambhavi School of Dance. But organizers say dealing with a few logistical issues is worth it. Not only does it offer international influence, but it also helps build Fort Wayne’s reputation as a destination city for the arts.
“This is meant to be introduced to the whole community, not just for the Indian community,” Krishnan said. “There are so many regions, and they each have their own dance styles and music styles. They all have their own take. We just needed to find all of those different people who were willing to come to Fort Wayne.”
“We’re delighted to have them here,” O’Connell said. “It’s so unique and interesting. And it’s wonderful that organizers really want anyone and everyone to be able to experience them, so they keep the cost low.”
Corporate donors and local arts organizations underwrite the cost of the show, so that it’s accessible to everyone. Students with a current school ID get in free. It’s just $10 for everyone else.
“We want teachers at art schools and instructors at dance studios to bring their students,” Chilakamarri said. “It’s not about making money. Our whole intent is to engage.”