Nurturing Young Talents in Indian Classical Dance in the Philippines

Though the modern world has now fully embraced yoga, meditation and even Bollywood dancing, far fewer know of Bharatanatyam, a traditional south Indian dance. The dance is as difficult to perform as the word is to pronounce.  Yet, through the untiring efforts of one dedicated danseuse and choreographer Ms.Shanti Sreedhar, Manila has been fortunate to witness yet another spectacular dance recital.

On December 1, 13-year-old Roshni Sandhu, student of Ms.Shanti Sreedhar, completed her 1st level of graduation in dance and made her debut performance called as Arengetram or Ascending the stage.

This event was held in the venerable University of Philippines’ Aldaba Auditorium. The Guest of Honour was Dr. Ramon Acoymo (Program Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA); and Member and Chair of the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Technical Panel for Music) and the Chief Guest was His Excellency Mr. Jaideep Mazumdar Ambassador of India. It was a packed auditorium with dignitaries from ADB, India Embassy, UP and several expatriate families.

Dr. Ramesh Subramaniam, Director General of ADB in his appreciation note, wrote, “Roshni truly captivated the audience at a superbly organized function.”

For a student to be able to graduate to the level of a debut solo performance, one has to train for 6 to 7 years with a Guru(teacher) and requires unparalleled dedication, fitness level and focus. These qualities were very evident in each of the dance pieces performed by her disciple, Ms.Roshni.

With the aid of technology, Ms.Shanti has also been training students outside of the Philippines in Malaysia, Vietnam etc.  Just this July, one of Ms.Sreedhar’s student Ms. Sagarika Mangal(15 yrs old) from Vietnam made her debut solo performance in Jaipur, India.

Known for her versatility and deep knowledge in Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi and specialist in Natuvagam, Ms. Shanti herself is an award winning artiste, recognized by the National Broadcast (Doordarshan) of India.

Since 1996, Mrs. Sreedhar has been associated with all the top most educational institutions in the Philippines such as University of Philippines, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila imparting classical and folk dance forms for their Bachelors and Masters students. She has also choreographed several cross-cultural shows in collaboration with National Commission for Culture and Arts Philippines (NCCA) and Cultural Center for Philippines. Shanti’s contribution in the musical ““Mga Kuwentong asyano” won her the award for Best Choreography.

Some of Shanti’s best known works have been showcased in several events, some of the highlights are: Natyanjali (part of the celebration of the 86th anniversary of the UP College of Music); Shanti Mantras (tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Jose Rizal for the India Week celebrated at the Cultural Center of the Philippines); Chants of Peace (a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi for the closing program of the Pankha Exhibition, a joint venture of the National Museum and the Embassy of India.) Represented India as artist and workshop facilitator in PETA’s Changing She Images. Head of summer workshop on Bharatanatyam called Arpana, a successful joint venture of the Indian Embassy and CCP, a first of its kind.

In 2013, Shanti founded the first Indian Dance School in Manila, Philippines – Natya Mandala. The annual programs of Natya Mandala have become a most awaited cultural treat for the local and expat audience in the Philippines. Some of their productions include Sadhana, Vaibhavam, Arpana and Nritya Manjari showcasing the talents of her students. Through these dance productions Shanti has also displayed her impeccable event organizing skills, stage lighting and sound management. She has developed many Filipino artistes in Indian Classical dance forms, some of them have even taken part in popular Television Dance shows in India.

Shanti continues to develop her passion for her craft by constantly upgrading herself through innovative choreography, modern music and collaborating with other well-known artistes. Regardless of her achievements and accolades, Mrs. Shanti Sreedhar remains a humble and passionate connoisseur of Indian Classical Dance forms and dedicates her much acclaimed success to her family.

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