Amazing India @ Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide 6/4/2019

Kalalaya Amazing India at the Adelaide Festival Centre Dunstan Playhouse was a celebration of everything that is so good about multi-culturalism in Australia.

Kalalaya is a company of local Australian / Indian artists who are so proud of their culture that they presented their latest offering, Amazing India not in a local community hall in front of an audience of primarily their own community (not that there is anything wrong with that), but took the risky plunge of presenting their show at the Festival Centre in front of a diverse audience. What community groups like Kalalaya get at the Festival Centre and that is so hard to replicate in a community centre, is access to state of the art lights, sound, projections and staging. All of these were first class and used effectively to complement the dancing and singing on stage. Similarly, the well-drilled Festival Centre stage technicians used some very effective techniques to wheel the live musicians’ set up on and off stage in between the dance items. All of these technical nuances lifted Kalalaya into a standard of presentation rarely seen in community performances. Bravo for that, Kalalaya!

With this attention to technical detail, the performers were given room to shine. On show were some very well-choreographed dances with absolutely stunning costumes. I can imagine how much time, effort and money went into the costumes alone. It was well worth it. The costumes alone were visually spectacular.

Much thought and inspiration went into the choreography as it was a celebration everything that is amazing about India, from the sacred prayer to Lord Ganesha in the Bharatanatyam – Ajam Nirvikalpam to the Kathak Tarana which focuses on specific hand gestures, facial expressions and eye focus, right through to the sheer joy and fun that is Bollywood.

Priya Ramesh is a gifted choreographer with an eye for detail – her dancers filled the voluminous Dunstan Playhouse Stage with bold joyous movements and eye pleasing patterns. She also masterfully presented the subtleties inherent in a lot of reflective Indian dance with finessed movements that created the intended meditative aura.

The driving force in Kalalaya’s “Amazing India” is the artistic director, Ramesh Menon who is credited with conceiving and directing the whole performance. He also composed much of the music and played keyboard and sang in the live orchestra.

Priya and Ramesh are the sort of people you need to make a community performance work so well. They are talented, obviously hardworking and clearly risk taking visionaries. Their incredible work with the dancers, singers and musicians was there for the very large audience to see. And most pleasing was that it wasn’t just the local Indian community that came to see this show.

But having said that, it was truly charming to be in an audience and sitting next to parents of children and watch them glow. The couple next to us, would nudge my wife when their child was on stage and beam with pride, “that’s our daughter on stage, in the front row, second from the left.” I love that special moment that theatre creates, that sheer pride in community performance, and the joy that comes from sharing it with others. My wife and I certainly appreciated being taken on that magical ride of “Amazing India”.

A beautiful show and a joyous community celebration! Well done Kalalaya!

Live Review By Bob Becker

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