Can we bridge cultural barriers and attain harmony through art? That was the question that Soorya Krishnamoorthy and his team sought to answer through their presentation of ‘Sangamam’ on May 18 at Billerica High School, Mass. The concert, which marked the debut of the long-running Soorya Festival in Boston, was a cultural showpiece that used music and dance to deliver a message of integration amidst diversity. ‘Sangamam,’ a word that implies ‘confluence,’ brought together a team of 20 artists of diverse talents from different parts of India including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and New Delhi.
Conceived and directed by Soorya Krishnamoorthy, ‘Sangamam’ used India’s late playback singer Mohammed Rafi ‘s classic, “O duniya ke rakhwale,” as the theme song to drive home the message of unity. In his opening remarks to the audience, Krishnamoorthy pointed to the fact that the song’s writer, composer and singer were all Muslims, while the song itself addressed the Hindu God Shiva. The show had an impressive start, with the dancers paying obeisance to the elements, effectively bringing to life wind, water and the earth through their movements. Dancers from Samudra Nadanam, a contemporary dance company based in Kerala, were joined by Kathak dancer Sonia Gupta and her team as well as Bharatanatyam dancer Dakshina Vaidyanathan to present the introductory piece. Then, it seemed the show did not take a breather, as the next one hour and 45 minutes saw various combinations of these dancers take to the stage in turns, contemporary and traditional art forms in motion together. Singer Zia Ul Haq provided musical interludes and live vocal support for some of the dances, rendering songs in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam.
With fluid movements that brought to mind yoga, acrobatics and martial arts, the dancers from Samudra Nadanam were graceful from the start. Dakshina Vaidyanathan, daughter of renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan, proved that she has the stage presence and talent to garner a name for herself in the art form. The concert also included a lively Dhol Dholak Cholam by dancers from Manipur, who made a mark with their ability to dance while adeptly playing drums at the same time. ‘Sangamam’ set a note of speed from the beginning; from ‘Vathapi Ganapathim’ to ‘O duniya ke rakhwale,’ all the dances followed a brisk tempo. The energetic pace worked well in the case of contemporary dance, and even Kathak, although it did detract from the beauty of Bharatanatyam when some of the moves seemed rushed. The high production values of the show that included multiple live percussion instruments invited audience participation at several points.
Soorya Krishnamoorthy is the founder of SOORYA Stage and Film Society, a cultural society that encompasses 36 countries and 60 centers in India. Soorya Festival is currently on a month-long tour of multiple cities in the United States under the auspices of Freedia Entertainment. Dr. Zachariah Thomas of Freedia Entertainment thanked the local organizers Joboy Jacob, former President of Kerala Association of New England, and Sapna Krishnan, Artistic Director of Lasya School of Dance, for their efforts in bringing Soorya Festival to Boston.