We see legendary dancers at shows and events and many-a-times we attend their enriching workshops too where we learn lessons of a lifetime. We have also seen the same legendary artist win several awards, an accomplished dancer always gets awarded and applauded for his or her work all the time. But it is not always that one sees legendary dancers all together at one time on one stage receiving the same award. Yes, this happened recently and what an event it was – a treat for all dancers and dance-lovers where five legendary Indian classical dancers all came together to perform and at the same time were felicitated with the prestigious Nataraja Samman.
The Sadguru Sri Thyagabrahma Aradhana Kainkarya Trust presented the very first Nataraja Samman in a glittering ceremony. It was a delight to see five legends of Indian classical dance — Vyjayanthimala Bali, Birju Maharaj, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Bharati Shivaji and my most favourite dear dancing mother Dr Sonal Mansingh all together on one stage. As an award, each one of these legends received Rs 1 lakh along with a gold medallion and a shawl as a token of appreciation for all the hard work done for years to take their respective dance forms to a level that is totally unmatched. The prestigious award was conferred by CEO and administrator of Sringeri Sharda Peethanr VR Gowrishankar, Captain Gopinath, Vani Ganapathy, Usha Veerendra Kumar of Mathrubhumi and Lalitha Reddy of Namrata Venkatram Reddy Foundation.
The artistically glittering evening began with a dance tribute to the geniuses with Endaro Mahanubhavulu, super-talented trio who performed this beautiful dance were Poorinima Subhashini and Soundraya along with Sathyanarayan Raju. The event just did not end with a performance and an award ceremony, there was much more to it. The crowd could not control their emotions and hysteria sort was caused when the maestros displayed their unparalleled skills of the art.
Kuchipudi legend Yamini Krishnamurti, who recently received Padma Vibhushan, performed a part of her masterpiece, Swami Rara Krishna Sabdam. Mohiniyattam dancer Padma Shri Bharati Shivaji cast a spell over the audience through her dance, Tallattu Lullaby. Kathak legend Pt Birju Maharaj mesmerised one and all by performing some traditional Gats and Parans and also a breadth taking abhinaya piece. Yesteryear Bollywood diva Padma Shri Vyjayanthimala Bali who is also an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer captivated the audience with a divine recital of few shlokas. My daarling dancing mother (I always write ‘darling’ as ‘daarling’ because this is from the hit song I choreographed for Priyanka Chopra in critically acclaimed film Saat Khoon Maaf), my darling dancing mother Padma Vibhushan Dr Sonal Mansingh was as always her celestial self when she performed a fascinating Dasavatar, a Jayadeva composition.
A charity dinner where all dancers and dancer-lovers could interact with the legends followed the evening which was done to raise funds for paediatric cancer in the memory of late Namrata Venkatram Reddy. This mega and most memorable evening of bringing the whiz of Indian dance all together on one stage was the concept and brainchild of Mr Venkatram Reddy and Usha RK.
Seeing not one or two but all five best artistes of India who every Indian dancer, be it young or old looks up to, were sitting together on stage to receive Nataraja Sammana. This picture I would say is the most perfect ever in the history of Indian dance. Each and every person present there could not take their eyes off the stage. It seemed Lord Nataraja himself had descended on the dance floor and was honouring the expert artists who have given their love, life and soul to their art for decades now.
Through this article, I would like thank the five pillars of Indian classical dance for giving us a photograph that will be set not only in our memories forever but even find a way into our dance temple. I also wish to congratulate the unparallel dancers for enriching our lives with their talent, dedication and determination and at the same time setting a benchmark in the field of dance which is so motivating and hard to reach up to, May god bless them all with a life filled with dance, dance and more dance.
Sandip Soparrkar is an internationally renowned Ballroom and Latin Dancer and a Choreographer, he has also made his name as one of the top Bollywood choreographers of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]