Japanese tribute to Lord Shiva

via www.dailypioneer.com published on February 14, 2007

Shyam Parakkat | Thrissur


For those, who till now had doubts about the universal appeal of Shiva Thandava, the answer comes from Japan.



The hundreds, who had assembled for the Sivarathri celebrations at the Vadakkumnatan temple here were awestruck by Keiko Watanabe, a Japanese artiste, performing one of the most graceful and difficult dance forms, Kuchupudi.


With graceful movements, a near-to-perfect synchronisation and immaculate ease, Keiko proved that for dedicated artistes neither perfection in art is an impossible task nor geographical boundaries an impediment.


Starting out with the Gajavandana, in Hamsadwani, Adi Talam of a Sri Purandara dasa composition, Keiko performed four other compositions including the ‘tharangam’ in a Ragamalika in Adi thalam of a Sri Narayana Teertha composition (unlike traditional tharangams).


The Shiva Stuthi, Rugmini Pravesam and Kamakshi Stuthi were her other performances.


For Keiko however, it was just another day in her long ‘tapasya,’ though it was her maiden visit to God’s own country. With no concern whatsoever to mask the Tamilian accent in the Queens language, Keiko, in her childlike mannerisms say: “It is a long journey and what I have learnt in the last 12 years does not stop me from moving further. There is still a lot to learn.”


Ably guided by Sailaja, a widely-known dance artiste, who is also the principal of Saila Sudha School of Bharathnatyam and Kuchipudia at Chennai, Keiko’s journey in the world of Kuchipudi has been till now prolific. The cultural clashes were, however, intact.


“The most important part of the performances is the ‘abhinaya,’ or facial expression. In Japan, lot of expressions in the face is found as bad mannerism, but the dance form here depends on this aspect wholly,” says Keiko.


Shuttling between Chennai and Tokyo, spending six months at home and the rest abroad, Keiko has three Japanese students in the Kuchupudi dance school she runs in Japan.


Her husband, Akira Watanabe is a specialist restaurateur, specialising in south Indian dishes.


“The Indian connection is complete with the husband specialising in Indian culinary and the wife as a danseuse,” says Sailaja.


With a promise to deliver more, the duo suggests to the rasikas to understand more on the basic difference between Kuchipudi and Bharathnatyam.


“Those who think that the ‘plate dance’ is the only difference between Kuchipudi and Bharathnatyam are totally wrong. The difference in the nuances start from the basics,” says Sailaja, who is equally an expert in both the dance forms.


In an age where even the youth competitions are allegedly becoming a pompous display of wealth, the dedication of this Japanese danseuse and her versatile mentor might prove as the necessary eye-opener.


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