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Mills students educate community

Three Mills students performed two forms of classical Indian dance in Haas Pavilion last Wednesday.

Freshwoman Sheela Bringi, junior Kali Futnani and master’s degree candidate Justine Lemos, performed mostly solo dance pieces to traditional Indian music in traditional Indian clothing.

The three dancers, who originally didn’t know one another, agreed to perform with each other easily. Lemos performed choreography from the north Indian derived dance style Odissi, closing her last full performance in a yoga position.

Futnani and Bringi discovered that they received training from the same teacher for a short time.

Futnani, who studied for four years in south India, and Bringi, who learned to dance in India, Australia and the United States, both performed Bharata Natyam, a south Indian derived dance style.

The dancers verbally explained a few pieces like Shiva Padam, which describes the virtues of Lord Shiva, but largely allowed the audience to interpret most of the dances through the music, the hand movements and the rhythms.

Bringi says she wanted people who saw the performance to understand that the dance and accompanying music, poems and clothing which originated in temples, are spiritual and sacred.

“These are not just empty movements,” said Bringi, “but a dancer’s way of showing spiritual devotion to God.”

“The emotion,” she said, “is a big part of it, you have to feel it and mean it in order to show it in your face and body.”

Both Futnani and Bringi testify to the religious symbolism in their performances.

According to them, Indian dance has always been regarded as a medium of worship or an offering to the gods.

“A woman’s yearning for love parallels humans yearning for divinity,” said Futnani.

The human soul, she added, searches for the supreme and has a desire to unite with the Ultimate.

Although Bharata Natyam may differ from Odissi stylistically, said Futnani, the sentimental themes are similar in that the romance is directed toward a god or a king.

Futnani, pleased to give this performance, encourages students to attend multi-cultural events in different disciplines.

“Anything that could be done to create a more multi-cultural environment” said Futnani. “Especially one that would allow students to appreciate such an event as a respectable ancient tradition and not a spectacle, to create a multi-cultural environment outside of the classroom.”

The event sponsored and supported by the South Asian Middle Eastern Cultural Awareness Organization (SAMECAO) was the club’s first dance event this year.The dancers performed eight pieces of choreography as members of SAMECAO provided traditional Indian refreshments like warm chai.

The dancers will repeat this performance for the office of undergraduate admissions’ preview day on April 13. The hour long performance will begin at 7 p.m. in Studio One at Haas Pavilion. The event is free and open to the public.