It’s our sheer love for it that has kept us going,” says celebrated Kuchipudi dancer Raja Reddy. Reddy and his wife Radha have been performing for 50 years, and will celebrate the milestone with a recital on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri in Delhi on Friday.
“This performance is also our dedication to the creator of dance, Lord Shiva. We will be performing dances that tell various stories of him and goddess Parvati,” says the septuagenarian, who began to be called “Black Shiva” after his performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in 1974.
Over the years, says Raja, the classical dance form has gained a bigger audience, especially among youngsters. “Fifty years of being on stage and the audience still gives us standing ovations. Young people realize that Indian performing arts set us apart from the rest of the world. They appreciate it more and show interest in learning it,” he adds.
The Maha Shivaratri Concert will commence with Namah Shivaya, a performance by the students of Natya Tarangini, a performing arts centre founded by the Reddys. This will be followed by Tandava, a performance by the Reddys that will depict the cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. While Raja will perform in the tandava style, Radha Reddy will portray the more graceful and feminine lasya style.
Their daughters, Yamini and Bhavana Reddy, will perform Shiva Leela, relating stories such as the one about Shiva consuming poison to save people during the “Samudra Manthan”, and becoming blue-throated or “Neelkanth” in the process. The finale of the evening, Shantam, is a new piece of choreography by Raja Reddy, and will be performed as a prayer for shanti (peace) and blessings.
“Our dance choreography will show both the masculine and feminine energy, which would be visible even in the portrayal of animals and birds in the choreography. While traditionally Kuchipudi was about the stories of Lord Krishna, we wanted to tell the stories of Shiva. I was inspired, at a young age, by the Bhagavatam dance dramas,” explains the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee.
The night will also see artistes paying tribute to Raja himself. The Gundecha Brothers, Padma Shri awardees and leading exponents of dhrupad music; classical vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, along with vocalist Sanjay Subrahmanyan; dancer Rajendra Gangani; musician K. Vageesh; and vocalist Aditi Sharma.
The Maha Shivaratri Concert will be held on Friday, from 8.30pm, at Natya Tarangini, Plot No.49, Sector 6, Pushp Vihar, Saket. Seating on first-come, first-served basis. Passes, available at the venue and on Eventbrite.com