Janaki Rangarajan Enthralls American Audience with Bharatanatyam on International Dance Day

‘Juda – Ode to Separation’ explores beauty of Sufi poetry through Indian dance

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, April 29, 2013 – Dr. Janaki Rangarajan, a Bharatanatyam exponent par excellence, delivered a spell-binding performance in her opening act, at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, on International Dance Day.

The program, featuring diverse dances by artistes of various ethnic backgrounds, was offered by the Kennedy Center, on its Millennium Stage, in collaboration with Dance Metro DC whose purpose is to sustain a thriving and vital dance community throughout the metropolitan area.

Rangarajan presented two pieces: ‘Jathiswaram’, highlighting ‘Nrtta’ (pure dance movements); and ‘Juda – Ode to Separation’ which explores the beauty of Sufi poetry through the classical dance technique of Bharatanatyam.

She explained to us that ‘Jathiswaram’ is a pure dance piece, not an invocation. ‘Juda’, she said, expresses “the separation and the longing for the beloved. It’s just love! The attachment when you love, the separation when you love”.

In ‘Juda’, one could actually feel the pain of being separated from the beloved in all her movements – precise to the point of perfection, her amazing ‘Abhinaya’ and emotive eyes which spoke volumes. Dance is a very powerful medium of expression and Rangarajan has mastered the art!

She informed us that ‘Juda’ was “part of a dance commission project for which I was selected out of many applicants. I was given a grant to present this poetry. I am also working on other projects with Sufi poetry”.

Dr. Janaki Rangarajan, founder and director of Nritya Niketan – School of Bharatanatyam based in Alexandria, Virginia, with Mrs. Vinatha Kumar (right) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington

Rangarajan is the founder and director of Nritya Niketan – School of Bharatanatyam based in Alexandra, Virginia.

We asked her about the significance of dance in her life. She promptly replied, “It’s my breath”!

Her message on International Dance Day, also called World Dance Day, was “Dance, dance dance! There is nothing more enjoyable than good art”, she said.

We would like to point out that ‘Juda’, is Sufi poetry at its best, set to music. Lyrics, by Sufi poet saint, Amir Khusrau, are soul-stirring. And Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan excels as the vocalist.

In this piece, the poet says:
How can I leave my beloved in this enchanting rain?
How do I wrench this heart away?
The meadows are green and blooming
But a dark nightingale laments in its separation.
I am entangled in your beautiful locks and yet
With one stroke you have severed my being.
I am shedding tears of blood my Love
Become one with my blood shot eyes…
Don’t go away!

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC

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