Nandini Mandal’s Prakriti Portrays Motherhood

By Deepa Godbole, Upper St. Clair, PA


Editor’s Note:  Deepa Godbole grew up in Pune, India and came to Pittsburgh 28 years ago to earn her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering.  She now lives in Upper St. Clair with her family.  Her hobbies include Indian culture and arts, yoga and bridge.

On Saturday, November 15th, the Nandanik Dance Troupe staged Prakriti, a show devoted to Mother in two forms, Devi and Nature. The well-orchestrated debut performance with many in the audience from the American mainstream started and ran on time. The show was different from Nandanik’s past productions. The songs were in several different languages with very little dialogue, and InterPlay provided the on-stage narration to relate the traditional story to contemporary events. The performance was engaging with the performers narrating the story as they danced.

MatrikaMandalThe first half was purely Indian classical dance focusing on the relationship between a mother and child portrayed in multiple ways. In the second item, a parallel was drawn between the relationship between Yashoda and Krishna and a modern-day mother and her son. This dance was the audience’s favorite with Nandini Mandal first portraying both Yashoda and Krishna; then InterPlay’s Sheila Collins danced to show the relationship between herself and her children reciting excerpts from her book Warrior Mother. The recital was riveting, driving home the point that a mother’s love for her child is eternal through all the passage of time.

The second half was dedicated to Mother Nature, choreographed in the Chau style of Indian dance. The story of a kingdom in which villagers, especially women, fought against their king as he tried to cut down their beloved trees was paralleled with the modern-day Chipko or Tree-hugger Movement that has spread across the world. The combination of Indian and American dance forms for telling this story was well done. InterPlay’s Neil Straub portrayed the tree and Sheila Collins and Shari Mastalski danced to tell the stories of modern-day deforestation around the world.

The imaginatively done last piece was inspiring: A young girl is tending to a sapling she found after all trees had been felled. As she cared for the sapling, slowly other saplings sprouted. The dancers begin as logs, and slowly, one-by-one, they grew into trees, first with their hands, and then with their entire bodies. It was a finale that will be hard to forget.

Overall, Prakriti was enjoyable and educative. The focus on mother-child relations as well as Mother Nature kept the audience engaged, bringing parallels to modern-day life. Integrating beautiful Indian dance (choreographed by Nandini Mandal and Sanjib Bhattacharya) with InterPlay’s unique style was seamlessly done. 

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