Kathy Ghose, Asim Datta and Sujata Burgess of FICA
Sisters Mahima and Mahathi Venkatesh, with the strong support of their parents Sowmya and Venky, are almost singlehandledly exposing new audiences to beautiful and complex traditional Indian dances. They are also preserving the intricate movements for the entire world as these traditional performances become less numerous and remembered as time goes on.
Mahima and Mahati performed at the Atrium opening.
The first dance was Mahima and Mahathi Venkatesh performing a traditional Indian Poikkal Kudhirai Aattam Dummy Horse Dance.
Poikkal Kudhirai Aattam is the Dummy Horse Dance where the dancer bears the dummy figure of a horse's body on his/her shoulders. This is made of light-weighted materials such as cardboard or paper mache and richly decorated cloth on the side swings to and fro covering the legs of the dancer. The dancer dons wooden legs (stilts) which sound like the hooves of the horse.
The performer dresses as a king or queen, brandishes either a sword or a whip, and performs acrobatics to entertain a crowd for festivals.This folk dance needs much training and skill. This dance is accompanied by "Naiyandi melam" or Band music.
Last minute adjustments for Mahathi Venkatesh
Next, Mahima Venkatesh performed a traditional Indian Karagattam Dance.
Mahima Venkatesh performs a traditional Karagattam
"Karagattam" is a unique south Indian folk dance with musical accompaniment, performed balancing a pot 'Karagam' on the head. Traditionally, this dance was performed by the villagers in praise of the rain goddess. Farmers' lives and crops depend on rain, so they worship their Goddess for rain. Before planting, they grow seeds in a pot and carry them to the temple. This ritual is called "Mulaipari".
In this ceremony, the dancer carries a pot of sprouted grains on his/her head and dances, balancing it through intricate steps and body/arm movements. This ritual is still carried out in villages. Karagattam evolved from this very ritual. Karagattam is one of the ancient Dravidian art form and in Sangam literature it is mentioned as 'Kudakoothu'.
Today, the pots have transformed from mud pots to bronze ware and even stainless steel in modern times. The pots are decorated with a cone of flower arrangements, topped by a paper parrot. The parrot rotates as the dancer swings along. This dance is very popular all over the south Indian State of Tamilnadu.
This dance has two divisions - one, Aatta Karagam and the other 'Sakthi Karagam'. Aatta Karagam is performed only in temples, while Sakthi Karagam is mainly entertainment in nature.
Earlier it was performed only with accompaniment of the "Naiyandi Melam" but now it includes songs also.
In the third performance, Mahima and Mahathi mixed elements of the two classical dances.
Mahathi and Mahima Venkatesh
About Mahima Venkatesh:
Mahima Venkatesh is an accomplished Indian dancer and performs "Bharathanatyam", an ancient South Indian dance and "Karagattam", an ancient South Indian Folk dance. She also has performed and choreographed Bollywood dances. She has performed at events including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame World Festival, Cleveland City Hall, Dance Showcase in Cleveland Play House Square, International Soccer game and Cultural Fest in John Carroll University, Asian Heritage Celebrations, International Folk Festival, Akron Civic Theatre, Berea Oktoberfest, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cincinnati EPA, and various cultural programs in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Chicago.
She has won several awards in the India Festival USA "You Got Talent" dance competitions in 2010 and 2011. Mahima is a sophomore in the Connections Dual Admission Medical Program at University of Cincinnati. Mahima's other interests include Spanish, Tennis, Skiing, playing the Flute, Traveling and Community Service.
About Mahathi Venkatesh:
Mahathi Venkatesh performs "Bharathanatyam", an ancient South Indian dance and "Poikkal Kuthirai", an ancient South Indian Folk dance. Mahathi Venkatesh is an honor student at the Albion Middle School in Strongsville. Mahathi represents her school in Power of the Pen, Ohio's award-winning creative writing program.
Mahathi's other interests include playing the Piano and Clarinet, Tennis, Skiing and Girl Scouts. She has won several awards in the India Festival USA "You Got Talent" dance competitions in 2011 and 2012.