Dancers for Krishna
Posted May 12, 2008
Posted May 12, 2008
Bhakti Kalalayam has a beautiful home in a converted barn fully equipped with floor to ceiling mirrors and a "knee-friendly" dance floor. The Barn was donated to the academy by my loving In-laws Kirtiraja Prabhu and Mother Haripuja, on whose property it stands. The renovation of the barn was made possible by generous donations from Jitari Prabhu and Mother Rangavati, Devarshi Prabhu and Mother Nirmala as well as by some fundraising performances by the academy's dancers. The beautiful setting is a dancers dream; it is secluded yet near the temple and has central heat and air. During class sometimes peacocks peer in the glass doors to watch the students dance.
Six of my original students have continued their dance training for the past eight years. These beautiful girls are extremely committed to their dance and have the good fortune of the devotees' encouragement.
Every week they are in dance class learning new dances, practicing old ones, building stamina and preparing for performances. Bharatanatyam may seem effortless but for each dance it may take three months or more to perfect. I have been blessed with a wonderful school and the Bhakti Kalalayam dance troupe has emerged from it. All of my hard work and dedication to these students is rewarded when I watch them perform. These girls help arrange performances, and teach new students at the Academy. Some of the dancers of Bhakti Kalalayam express: "Dance, devotion, spiritual friendship, and spreading Srila Prabhupada's message. That and more is what makes up the Bhaktikalalayam Dance Academy. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to learn and grow in Bhakti Kalalayam under the guidance of Anapayini. Through Bharatanatyam, I, as well as so many others are given the chance to express their love and develop Bhakti, while helping others to come in contact with spirituality, ISKCON, and culture." Prtha Dasi 17yrs
"Lately I have been thinking about what is the most important thing in my life, what i couldn't live with out. Ive recently discovered, though i have always known inadvertently, that that thing for me is dance.I feel like it is my telephone to reach Krsna.It feels so tangible and real.Through dancing not only can I present myself in prayer, but i can invite others to learn about Krsna's qualities. This may sound stuck-up but i really see it as a privilege that anyone can take up" Komala Kumari Dasi 17yrs.
Although I had a dance graduation, it was merely a beginning to a life of dance. I return to India to continue my study, attend performances and to give performances myself. In the USA I have been performing at Festival of India Rathayatras since 1996. Madhuha Prabhu, The Festival Director, has been an incredible encouragement over the years. Madhuha says of our performances, "When Anapayini appears on the stage with her students acting out and performing the pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna, and so many different pastimes from the Srimad Bhagavatam, the impact is tremendous. These young devotees are not just highly skilled at Bharatanatyam, but they are fully Krishna consciousness devotees, using their Krishna-given talents to present Krishna consciousness to the general public. To me, having second generation devotees performing on our stage at the Festivals of India is the purest presentation we can possible give the general public."
Each temple sponsors my travel to their festival, and gives a small honorarium. For many years I have done solo performances but over the past few years some members of the dance troupe have accompanied me at their own expense. With the introduction of more troupe members at these festivals I've discovered the amazing impact our group performances have on the audiences. Srila Prabhupada had very high expectations for dramatic performances and saw them as a means to communicate the philosophy of Krishna consciousness to people throughout the world. He considered drama one of the main methods to achieve what he termed a "cultural conquest."
Last fall i drew up a list of what the troupe needed to continue our service. We needed new recordings of dance music as well as a new set of costumes for each performer. We received generous support from the ISKCON Youth Ministry represented by Manu Prabhu and Mother Jayaradhe who gave a nice donation in reciprocation for the involvement of our troupe in the more than thirty dance/drama performances on the 2007 bus tour. Mother Satya of ISKCON Brooklyn, NY also contributed generously. She annually invites and hosts us on behalf of the Temple community to perform at New York Rathayatra. Mother Sukadha, who is the mother of Prtha one of our dancers, also gave a generous donation. The list goes on.
During my recent trip to India these donations made it possible to begin to take Bhakti Kalalayam to a higher level of service to Srila Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas. I have ordered 11 new dance compositions, some of which are unique pieces on Lord Caitanya. To my knowledge there has never been pure Bharatanatyam dances choreographed on the glories and preaching of Lord Caitanya. This has been a great desire of mine to use my talent of Bharatanatyam dance to express the culture of Lord Caitanya which I hold so close to my heart. We also had three new costumes tailored for each of the seven performers (including myself).
Despite all the kind and generous donations we received prior to my trip to India, we fell financially short on the completion of our project. We have appealed to our community in Alachua and they have come forward many times to generously help. This time we are appealing to the ISKCON community at large. After our performances throughout the country, so many devotees come forth to give us compliments, blessings and encouragement, thus empowering us to continue in our service. We have the commitment, the determination, the talent and the dedication to continue. But, we don't have the financial backing that's needed. In order for these young devotee girls to successfully continue in their service of making a lasting impression on their audiences they need continued financial support. As time goes by I am hoping that we can depend on their continued involvement in Srila Prabhupada's cultural conquest. Not only will all developments from this project assist these girls in their service but are investments for future performers of the Academy.
Bhakti Kalalayam 2008 needs:
New Dance Composition and music recordings: 11 pieces at $460- each
Sound system for the dance studio: $500-
2008 Annual Performance expenses: Auditorium rental $350- Flyers and printing $300- Light technician $100-
A computer to be used for administration and other facilities for the academy: $2,000
Summer Bus Tour sponsorship: $1,699- (price for one dancer on the 9 week performance tour of North America.)
**Seven dancers need sponsorship*** Troupe members: Anapayini Dasi, Nadia Dasi, Komala Kumari Dasi, Kalindi Dasi, Jahnavi Dasi, Sita Dasi, Prtha Dasi
Our future hopes and dreams for Bhakti Kalalayam in the years to come:
To take the whole troupe to Mayapur to perform for the festival in 2009.
For each member of the troupe, during the year 2010, to have a six month intensive study in India with my dance guru, culminating in their formal dance graduation.
To expand Bhakti Kalalayam both physically, by creating more space, and through classes to include studies in music, yoga, art and Sanskrit.
This is how you can help:
Become an annual donor for Bhakti Kalalayam efforts.
Sponsor a specific item from the list above
Sponsor an Individual performer
Sponsor an annual Bhakti Kalalayam Academy formal performance
We are dedicated and determined to continue our service to Srila Prabhupada and his worldwide mission. But, we need your help. These performances transcend all local considerations and they have universal appeal. By your help these dancing soldiers for Srila Prabhupada's cultural conquest will be sufficiently armed with paraphernalia to continue their service pleasurably and successfully.
Yours in the dancing service of Shri Krishna,
Bhakti Kalalayam Dance Academy
PO Box 1261
Alachua, FL 32616