Vismaya : Celebration

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

29/06/2024 - 29/06/2024

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

30/06/2024 - 30/06/2024

Little Theatre, Library Bldg, 2 Queens Drive, Lower Hutt

02/07/2024 - 02/07/2024

Nelson Centre of Musical Arts, 48 Nile St, Nelson

04/07/2024 - 04/07/2024

The Piano, 156 Armagh Street, Christchurch

06/07/2024 - 06/07/2024

Production Details

Vivek Kinra – Director and Choreographer
Rangani Ganesan ramesh – Music Director

Mudra Dance Company

VISMAYA: Amazement

A Celebration of Indian Music and Dance

Directed and Choreographed by Vivek Kinra
Performed by Mudra Dance Company
and Visiting South Indian Musicians of International Repute

Presented by Chamber Music New Zealand
Visamaya, Sanskrit for amazement, is the new work from highly acclaimed Mudra Dance Company and is guaranteed to be an exuberant programme of classical Indian dance form of Bharata Natyam, accompanied by a live ensemble of esteemed South Indian musicians.

Chamber Music New Zealand supported with sponsorship by The Asia New Zealand Foundation will present Vismaya throughout in a nationwide tour. The audience will have an opportunity to experience high quality classical Indian music and dance in this spellbinding performance.

In a powerful display of motion, colour, music, mime, and rhythm the premier Indian classical dance company will excite audiences with fast-moving dramatic pieces. Together with wondrously swift and rhythmic percussive footwork, the dancers convey complex emotion and philosophical thought through exquisite hand gestures, body movements and facial expressions.

Assembled especially for this tour, the highly sought after musicians enrich the performance through their exquisite interpretations providing accompaniment to the rhythmic and melodic aspects of the dance. With a vocalist, mridangam (percussion), flute and veena (a traditional Indian string instrument) alongside the exotic beauty and charm of the dancers, Vismaya will be a mesmerising and an intense spectacle of constant dance movements and live music.

Characterised by exotic beauty and charm, Mudra Dance Company is a visual feast of brilliant sari colours, traditional headdresses of braids and flowers, and the sparkle of gorgeous jewellery.

The new work of Vismaya created by Vivek has been choreographed with the inclusion of the complexities of a live orchestra, adding great dynamics to the dance performance.

Vismaya will be an hour-long performance comprising of three dance pieces.

First piece will be a Pushpanjali which is the offering of flowers by the dancers. This will be followed by prayers offered to the Mother Goddess in her form as Shyamala Rajamatangi, who is one of the Mahavidyas – the ten mysterious Tantric Goddesses.

The central piece of Varnam will take us through nine prime emotions of Love, Disgust, Terror, Wonder, Laughter, Valour, Fury, Compassion and Peace, through a love story of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva.

A vibrant new Thillana will be the final item of the repertoire with special emphasis on interaction between live orchestra and dancers on stage.

The production is sure to mesmerise the audience with a spectacular visual and acoustic treat.

Vivek Kinra, Director & Choreographer
Mudra Dance Company, Dancers
Ranjani Ganesan Ramesh, Vocalist & Nattuvangam
Adyar K Gopinath, Mrigandam (Percussion)
Tiruchy L Saravanan, Flautist
Jaishri Suresh, Veena

Saturday 29 June 7.30pm Auckland Q Rangatira
Sunday 30 June 6.00pm Hamilton Meteor
Tuesday 2 July 7.30pm Lower Hutt Little Theatre
Thursday 4 July 7.30pm Nelson Nelson Centre of Musical Arts
Saturday 6 July 7.30pm Christchurch The Piano

Tickets $15 to $52

Vivek Kinra, Director & Choreographer
Mudra Dance Company, Dancers
Ranjani Ganesan Ramesh, Vocalist & Nattuvangam
Adyar K Gopinath, Mrigandam (Percussion)
Tiruchy L Saravanan, Flautist
Jaishri Suresh, Veena

Dance , Indian classical dance , Music ,

70 Minutes

Immediacy, vitality of the performance, captivating

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 07th Jul 2024

Chamber Music New Zealand has a long history of adventurous programming that stretches back at least to the 1970s.  While small ensembles performing the core chamber repertoire of western art music has been central to their concert series for many years  it is worth remembering that the organisation also brought groups such as the Syntagma Musica, a pioneering Medieval and Renaissance music band to New Zealand fifty years ago as well as contemporary music groups such as The Fires of London, and a little known male voice ensemble that sang everything from Renaissance polyphony to pop.  That group, now internationally known, was The Kings Singers.  Dance was introduced into their programmes in 2021 with a highly successful collaboration between Ballet Collective Aotearoa and  the New Zealand String Quartet. Thus, in many respects, programming non-western forms of dance and music represents a continuation of long established practices by Chamber Music New Zealand rather than a new departure.

From the moment the audience entered the auditorium it was clear that we were in a different environment.  The four musicians were already seated on the left side of the stage and at the front right was a small shrine. The sweet fragrance of incense pervaded the air. The evening began with an introductory explanation of the performance we were about to witness, expressed through mime by Vivek Kinra with a spoken commentary over the public address system.  This provided valuable context for the audience, many of whom, including this reviewer, would have been unfamiliar with the art form they were about to witness.  The five dancers of the Mudra Dance Company then performed the introductory Pushpanjali, which incorporated the offering of flowers at the shrine followed by Shyalala Dandakam.  The intricate footwork, elegant and expressive hand and arm movements and the intricate patterns of the dance itself made an immediate impression, along with the tireless energy, freshness and poise of the dancers.  Even if the finer points of interpretation remained elusive for the uninitiated, the immediacy and vitality of the performance was captivating. The presence of live music added an important extra dimension to the performance.

The second work, Navarasa: Nine Emotions, was introuduced by Kinra with a further mimed exposition of the work, the clarity of his gestures revealing not just the specifics of the movement vocabulary of the work to come but also underpinning the universality of the ways in which emotion is revealed through bodily movement and facial expression.  Navarasa  traversed a wide range of emotions through the love story of the goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, including love, disgust, anger and ultimately peaceful tranquility. As the work unfolds the gestures and movements we had been introduced to at the beginning emerge from the collective movements of the five female dancers who impersonate both Shiva and Parvati.  Storytelling here emerges from the collective movements of the troup rather than from individual impersonations by soloists in the manner of western forms of dance.

A musical interlude provided the dancers with respite from the high energy demands of their performance while also allowing the musicians to shine in their own right.  Nagumomu, performed  on solo flute by Tiruchy L Saravanan, was virtuosic and highly evocative and gradually morphed into a drum tala by Sri Adyar Gopinath, the rhythmic subtlety of his performance holding the audience spellbound, before the flute returned briefly to bring their performance to a close.  From a musical perspective this was the highlight of the evening.

The last work on the programme Thillana, was a piece of pure dance in which many of the steps already seen, including the distinctive percussive slapping of the feet on the floor, were celebrated for their own sake.  The dancers were tireless and their joy in performance was palpable throughout the entire evening. As an introduction to the expressive beauty, colour and drama of Bharata Natyam, this could hardly have been bettered and we can only hope that further opportunities to experience this ancient dance tradition will arise in future.

The one misjudgement, to my ears, was the decision to amplify the musical performance.  The Piano has a resonant and lively acoustic designed specifically for unamplified musical performance and there is little doubt that these virtuosic performers could have been heard easily in this environment.  The amplified volume was unrelentingly, almost oppressively, loud  and robbed the music of nuance and masked the percussive elements of the dance performance.  These performers had no need of artificial boosting to make an impression.


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Dancers are galvanised into brilliance

Review by Jennifer Shennan 05th Jul 2024

Vismaya is Sanskrit for Amazement and proved the perfect title for this highly enterprising project of Bharata Natyam, South Indian classical dance, in performances and workshops on a national tour to five centres—Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch. 

In an inspired move, Chamber Music New Zealand (CMNZ) invited four highly skilled Indian musicians to visit and team up with six dancers from the Wellington-based Mudra Dance Company. Vivek Kinra has directed his Bharata Natyam academy and company here since 1990, but the calibre of his work has always been international rather than merely local, so we expect to be thrilled, and we are, by this performance of enriched chamber music.

Read more . . .


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Electric connection between musicians and dancers

Review by Namnita Kumar 03rd Jul 2024

A wonderful scent of incense floats through the theater the moment we step, inside along with the distant hum of the veena. I’m immediately drawn to right of the stage where a life sized altar is set up, dedicated to the Mother Goddess in her form as Shyamala Rajamatangi. She is one of the Mahavidyas – the ten mysterious tantric goddesses.  I offer a silent prayer of gratitude. To the left the wonderful musicians in order of Mridangam played by Sri Adyar Gopinath, Vocalist and Music Director Ranjani Ganesan Ramesh, Vena played by Jaishri Suresh and Flutist Tiruchy L Saravanan. The feeling that I’m about to witness something very special is floating through the space along with the incense. 

As the lights dim and the crowd settles, Sri Vivek Kinra appears on the stage and I’m emotionally moved as he takes us through program via adavus (These are the basic steps of Bharatanatyam that are used to choreograph dance sequences. Each adavu is a combination of sthanakam (position of the legs), mandalam (standing posture), chari (walking movement) and nritta hastas (hand gestures). His movements are graceful yet precise and his presence evokes an emotion of sacredness that I’ve felt when at a temple. Sri Vivek Kinra bows and leaves the stage.

Next the sound of Om (x3) is chanted by the vocalist and I’m yet again moved and feel as if I’m partaking in a divine ritual. As the dancers enter the stage an air is of excitement takes place as the pushpanjali (offering of flowers by the dances to Maa Maatangi) is given. 

The Navarasa: nine emotions are depicted through a love story of goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. Through each stage: Shringaram Rasa (Love), Beebhatsam (disgust), Bhayanaka (terrified) Adbhutam (awestruck), Hasyam(Joyous), Veeram (valour), Raudram (furious), Karunyam (affectionate) and Shantam (peace), I’m taken through the rollercoaster of expressions of human conditions in its purest form. I’m reminded how we express own human conditions via our relationships we have with ourselves and the external world. Does love really bring out each of these emotions to its highest form? 

As I ponder this, I’m drawn to the vast stage decorated as if I’m in a sacred place, a temple. To be able to share the emotions that are at times so very delicately expressed and other times valiantly shown (especially the Veeram – in the form of Meenakshi she fights valorously with the army of Lord Shiva) I hear my mind saying who would dare fight Shiva’s army….of course Goddess Parvati would! The battle dance, expressions of the dancers, the connection between the musicians and the dancers is electric and so vibrant. As I watch transformed I think of the all the hard training these wonderful dancers have done to be where they are today. This particular form of dance/music training requires a discipline so rigorous I have heard of parents starting their children as young as three! I’m in awe. I’m brought back by the soothing voice of the vocalist like a healing balm I’m looking forward to during each stage of the Navarasa. 

I’ve witnessed a few of Sri Vivek Kinra’s shows before but this is the first time I’m able to experience live musicians with the dancers. I really didn’t want this show to end! But finally I’m now witnessing the devotion to Rama (kirtan), it’s like the lull after a big wedding has taken place and now the journey is really beginning in this sacred love. Sri Adyar Gopinath’s solo is in itself a moment to cherish amongst the varying emotions I’ve already witnessed.  This is truly an honour, for the mighty connection held between both the musicians and the dancers is an unbreakable bond like that of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvarti shared in the Navarasa. 

Thank you to all the dancers, the musicians and to Sri Vivek Kinra for his unwavering dedication to this wonderful world of Bharata Natyam. 


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Bells, foot beats, ethereal song and exquisite music. 

Review by Felicity Molloy 30th Jun 2024

The new work of Vismaya, created by Vivek Kinra is the premier performance for the Mudra Dance Company’s 2024 New Zealand-wide tour. Rangatira Theatre is transformed by an iconic tableau of the green-blue goddess of arts, Shyamala Rajamatangi  with flowers, candles and incense. The four musicians become a human tableau as they quietly enter the stage. The cyclorama starts drab white, until excessively harsh stage lights erase an organic lightscape that is recognisable from all performance rituals. If not, the lights might have been a better match to preserve the richer colours of traditional clothing.

Bharata-Natyam, is a classical South Indian dance form with ancient traditions dated from before 500BCE, and brought to life in Aotearoa New Zealand through the artistic sensibilities of Vivek Kinra, himself an arrival here in 1990. The Sanskrit words of the dance style also have meaning: bha is short for feeling, ra is précised as melody or the framework of musical rendition, tam denotes rhythm and natyam means dance.

Ancient ties to respect and tradition are born witness in Vivek’s flawless moving cameos before each dance. He tells the story, yes through gesture but time bound narratives are so much more evident in his etched representations of ancient grace and the effigy of pause between each new movement. Vivek’s dance is taonga, a cultural spatial collation of expressive feeling. NO need for retirement!

The show somewhat follows the ritual order of Bharata-Natyam dances. Pushpanjali with music composed by Madurai Muralidharan is an offering not just to the goddess. This dance sets the pace of intelligent artistry consistently bound into each subsequent depiction. A distinctive work Navarasa with music composed by Jaffna Veeramani Iyer expands a love story between Parvata and Lord Shiva through nine (strong) emotions. A Ragam flute composition by Dadguru Tyagaraja Swami, named Nagumomu is gently accompanied by the mridangam. Thillana composed by T.K. Padmanabhan completes the evening with Mangalam, a devotional Sanskrit mantra. Each dance work is accompanied by an intensity of sonic collaboration between the swirl of costumes’ bells, foot beats, ethereal song and exquisite music. 

The four musicians are awe-inspiring in their ability to align traditional sounds with the acoustic dynamics of musical technology. Vocalist and musical director, Ranjani Ganesan Ramesh is the central force of interpretive dialogues between music and dance. Sri Adyar Gopinath draws out the beats of the mridangam to imprint percussive urgency in the rapid footsteps of the dancers. The flute played by Tiruchi L. Saravanan springs music out of the air, his harmonies an embellishment of sound and celebration. The fourth musician evokes the potential for us to hear old and new in any one moment. Jaishri Suresh’ strings chant from the Indian veena.

The five dancers similarly display a deep and intense dedication to the works they are expressing. Difficult combinations of Bharata-Natyam movement texts and experimental spacings are inspired by a contemporary lexicon. Banu Shiva, Deepika Sundar, Esther McCreadie, Shrinidhi Bharadwaj and Varshini Suresh skilfully grapple with ornate restrictions of costumes’ virtue, splendid choreographic virtuosic action and the expressive traditional vocabularies of balance, rapid footwork, face and gesture. All in all this evening of Bharata-Natyam is an unforgettable treasure trove of cultural harmony. A karakia for the performing arts in the country to preserve and promote the vast heritage of cultures expressing their lifeform, their feelings in dance and music.


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