Shantala Shivalingappa Dance Review – Kuchipudi Artist Enchants Chicago Audience


Shantala Shivalingappa brought Kuchipudi to The Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 South Michigan Avenue, in association with Chicago’s “Eye on India” Festival, March 5, 6, 7. Sheconveyed abstract concepts with rhythmic, bright, vivacious pure dance and utilized facial expressions and body language to bring stories of Hindu mythology to life.  


Shantala Shivalingappa - AKASHA - teaser from sunnyartistmanagement on Vimeo.


Shantala’s technique and sensibility perfectly responded to live music provided by a flutist, two percussionists, and a vocalist.




Her performance of Akasha opens with “Om Namo JI Adya,” an invocation to the Supreme Being,  salutations to “Om,” seed of the universe. and to Sharada (Saraswati) goddess of art and knowledge, who blesses devotees with inspiration.  




A playful tribute to the radiantly beautiful, but mischievous child Krishna “Krishnan Kalaya” follows. The dancer depicts the playful child and his scolding mother, dismayed by his eating earth. Like everyone else, however, she is totally charmed  by the  divine child who enchants  all around him with his flute playing and embodiment of Supreme Truth and Compassion.



A classical dance form developed in the village of Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh in South India, Kuchip[udi is rooted in the 2000 year old Natya Shastra, a sophisticated and precise codification of  dance, music and theatre that  incorporates elements of regional folk dance.  This is strikingly evident in performance on a brass plate during “Jaya Jata Durge,” a dance honoring the powerful Mother Goddess Durga, who, armed with weapons given her by the gods, destroys evil.



A  Kuchipudi whirl indicates a change of character in “Kirtanam,” a dance drama depicting a lovers’ quarrel. Shantala plays both the Goddess Alamelu Manga, who “tells” the story and her husband, the God Venkateshwara, as well as several minor characters. She deplores her husband’s deceit and unfaithfulness, but pleads with Him to “Promise that you will be loyal to me once more and thus revive the light of our love” according to a 14th century poem by Annamacharya.



A remarkable  display of musical virtuosity by  Shantalas’ four musicians precedes Akashas stunning  finalé,  “Bhairava.” Shantala persuasively depicts  Bhairava, the Divine Protector and Supreme Guardian in this portrayal of the destructive manifestation of Shiva, whose small sacred drum, the damaru, beats out the cycle of creation and destruction of the universe.  Clad in a tiger skin and snakes, his skin smeared with ash, he wields his trident and sword to destroy demons and overcome evil on behalf of his devotees.



According to ancient philosophies in India Akasha, Space beyond Space-time is the fifth element.  Akasha completes the Air, Water, Fire, Earth designation of elements and originates in sound: a vibration, a form of energy and movement. Mudras (precise hand gestures), movements of the eyes and head, supple sway of the torso, and vigorous foot work connect to musical rhythm in Kuchipudi, which embodies the  musicality of movement as a key element in the marriage of rhythm, word, and melody.



Born in Chennai, India, Shantala was raised in Paris, but returned to Kuchipudi Art Academy in Chennai to master the Kuchipudi art form, built on a foundation of the crisp precision of Bharata Natyam.  Introduced to Kuchipudi by her mother, Savitry Nair, Shantala  pursued intense and rigorous training from Master Vempati Chinna Satyam, who inspired her dedication to Kuchipudi.  His choreographed Sanskrit texts resonated with spiritual concepts, which helped her understand Hinduism and its deities. Shantala has performed in numerous festivals and theatres to bring Kuchipudi to the western world. 


The 2014/5 season of The Dance Center of Columbia College continues with performances in March and April.  For more information visit The Dance Center of Columbia College website or call the box office at (312) 369-8330.


The Dance Center at Columbia College

1306 South Michigan

Chicago, IL








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