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Indian and American Dancers raising money for Assam’s flood victims

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by Madhusmita Bora for The Dance Journal

A group of accomplished Indian classical and Western dancers are donating their art to raise money for the flood victims of Northeast India. “Dance for a Cause” , an initiative by Philadelphia-based Sattriya Dance Company, will be held on Saturday, November 22, at 6:00 pm, at the Meeting House Theater at the Community Education Center, Philadelphia, PA. All proceeds are being directly donated to non profit Assam Foundation of North America, which is partnering with Purbanchal Social Circle, an NGO that operates in Agia.

In 2013, floods in the Indian state of Assam were triggered by heavy rainfall at the end of June in neighboring Arunachal Pradesh state through Brahmaputra river and its tributaries. These flood submerged 11 districts out of 27 in the state where more than 100,000 people affected. The flood also affected Kaziranga National Park. In addition, the floods also affected some of the northern districts of Bangladesh where 100,000 people are suffering from a scarcity of food and pure drinking water.

Artists from New York, New Jersey , Washington D.C. and Philadelphia are converging on the City of Brotherly Love to send some love and healing to Assam. “My family home in Gauhati got flooded and my parents were stranded for three days, but they have the means to build their lives back, and many don’t,” said Madhusmita Bora, co-director of Sattriya Dance Company.

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“As I followed the news about the floods, I came across this incredibly gut-wrenching photo of a mother and child clinging to each other in their watery grave. That is what made me literally jump out of the couch and get into action. I put out a call on Facebook and lo and behold, many of my friends from the dance community responded.” Prerona Bhuyan, Bora’s dance partner and co-director of the company, said the event resonates Sattriya Dance Company’s mission to promote awareness about Assam.

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“Year after year, floods in Assam have devastated lives of millions. This initiative is a humble effort to raise some funds, the proceeds of which will go towards reconstructing lives of these flood victims,” said India-based Bhuyan.

Performers include:

  • Kuchipudi: Yamini Saripalli (Washington D.C.)
    Dr.  Yamini Saripalli, a veteran Kuchipudi dancer. Dr. Yamini Saripalli had her initial exposure to the art of Kuchipudi dance through Mrs. Sujatha Vinjamuri. Since 1995, Yamini has been training under Padmabhushan Guru Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam at the Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai. Under the guidance of her guru Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam and his son, Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar, she has developed into a refined artist.
  • Bharatnatyam: Madhvi Venkatesh (Washington C.)
    Madhvi Venkatesh (Bharatnatyam), is a student of Viji Prakash. Madhvi Venkatesh is a dancer and choreographer who specializes in the South Indian classical dance form of Bharata Natyam. She trained for over ten years with Viji Prakash and subsequently refined her art under the guidance of Bharata Natyam stalwarts such as Guru T.K. Kalyanasundaram, Sreelatha Vinod, and Indira Kadambi. Madhvi has also studied modern dance and ballet for several years. Her dual training in South Indian and Western dance styles allows her to bring contemporary ideology and abstraction into her Bharata Natyam choreography and performance.
  • Kathak: Dien Magno (New York)
    Dien Magno (Kathak): Dien Magno has been studying with world-renowned Kathak guru and master Pt. Chitresh Das at the Chhandam School of Kathak Dance since 2001 while a university student at San Francisco. In addition to her guru, she maintains her training under the guidance of Pt. Das’ senior disciple, Gretchen Hayden-Ruckert, of the Chhandika Institute of Kathak Dance in Boston. Dien has performed in Boston, Philadelphia and New York, where she currently lives, promoting Kathak tradition, history, culture, rhythmic complexity and universal philosophies.
  • Sattriya: Madhusmita Bora (Philadelphia)
    Madhusmita Bora (Sattriya) is an award winning Sattriya dancer and disciple  of Padmashree Jatin Goswami, Guru Naren Boruah and Gobinda Kalita Bayna of Uttar Kamalabari Sattra. Bora is the co-director of Sattriya Dance Company in Philadelphia and has performed in prestigious venues such as the Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center , New York, 34th annual Ethnic Dance Festival in San Francisco and the Alvin Ailey Theater in New York. She’s a three time winner of the Art & Change Grant from Leeway Foundation, and 2013 winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant. Her passion has been to tell the Sattriya story on the world stage.
  • Odissi: Donia Salem, Nandini Sikand (New Jersey)
  • Tap: Reggie Myers (New York)
    I started my career at my mother’s dance school in 1988 and have been trained in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Modern, Fitness, Latin, Ballroom and African. I have had the opportunity to open shows for various professional artists such as Mya, Imajin and Brian McKnight, and was mentored by the likes of Savion Glover, Jason Samuels-Smith, Chloe Arnold,Dormeshia Sumbrey-Edwards, and Jared Grimes. I have taken classes with and been most inspired and mentored by Mr. Wiggles, Buddha Stretch, Spex, Rennie Harris, Don Campbell Lock, and Brian Green. Over the years, I have won many tap competitions and have auditioned for “So You Think You Can Dance,” and other nationally televised competitions. I also Toured Russia April 2013 with Illstyle & Peace Productions. 
  • Contemporary Belly Dance: Oreet Jehassi Schwartz (Philadelphia)
    Oreet, a native New Yorker is the founder of SharQui – The bellydance workout®. She is a dance and fitness presenter as well as an award winning performer. Her dance specialty is Modern Egyptian, which is a contemporary and innovative twist on the traditional Egyptian style. It fuses modern dance, ballet and her Yemenite/Israeli roots to create her high energy bellydance style. As a performer and teacher Oreet combines passion, grace, athleticism and hip precision in order to give a refined performance.Along with teaching, Oreet certifies dancers and fitness professionals in the SharQui format nationally and internationally. She holds the titles Bellydancer of the Year 2007, Entertainer of the Year 2006, Jewel of the Nile 2006, Bellydance Diva 2005 and is the reigning Middle Eastern Dance Champion of North America.
  • Contemporary: Evalina Carbonell, Lauren Sion, Meredith Stapleton (Philadelphia)
    Evalina Carbonell, known affectionately as, “Wally,” received her early training at the National Ballet School in Maryland.  She also spent summers at the Washington Ballet School and Alonzo King’s Lines Contemporary Ballet School.  Evalina earned a BFA in Dance from Florida State University, studying with such luminaries as Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Suzanne Farrell.  Upon graduation, she joined the Roxey Ballet Company, dancing as a principal artist from 2005-2011, and as a guest artist at Kenya’s 2009 Inaugural Ball.  She has performed as a free-lance artist with the NYC-based Dance Iquail, and in Philadelphia with Antonia & Artists, Jessica Warchal-King, Jae Hoon Lim, and Meredith Stapleton, among others.  In 2012, Evalina joined the internationally active, Philadelphia-based, Kun-Yang Lin/ Dancers.  In addition to her work with Kun-Yang Lin, she performs frequently as a guest artist both nationally and locally, presents her own work in NYC and Philadelphia, and teaches dance, Gyrotonic® and Gyrokinesis®.

    Lauren Sion graduated with a B.A in Dance from Muhlenberg College in 2008 with Magna Cum Laude Honors.  She attended Drexel University for a year, where she was part of the Drexel Dance Ensemble and when she transferred to Muhlenberg College to major in dance she performed and choreographed in numerous shows.  Since then she has gone on to teach, perform, and choreograph extensively throughout the tri-state area.  She is proud to be a full-time teacher at Nardi Dance Studios in Easton, PA and has had the pleasure of performing with and for Annex Dance Company, Serendipity Dance Ensemble, hersouldances modern dance projects, Eng and Friends Dance Company, Pink Hair Affair (Morgan Chambers choreography), Firerock Productions (video promo The Coca Cola Bottling Company & Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey stadium), Keith Thompson, & REXDANCE. Currently she balances professional performance projects with Sarah Carlson’s DanceLink, danceETHOS Performance Company, coEXISTdance Company, ContempraDance Company and of course, Underground DanceWorks!

Eminent artist Lauren Jenkins is donating her expertise in light and sound arrangement for the evening.

Ever since she reached out on social media, Madhusmita’s initiative has seen much support and encouragement. “It’s been an overwhelming experience. The outpouring of love and kindness”, she says. “Friends from Midwest are buying tickets and donating to less privileged students in the Philadelphia area. I have a friend who is donating food for the performers. It’s just been so wonderful and heart warming.”

Tickets for the concert are available for $35 both onsite and online at danceboxoffice.com.
(all proceeds donated for flood victims of Northeast India to AFNA, a US non-profit 501(c)(3) org www.assamfoundation.net)

About Sattriya Dance Company
Sattriya Dance Company was launched in 2009 with a mission to tell the story of Sattriya and raise awareness about Majuli and the sattras (monasteries) through performances, lecture demonstrations and classes. The company’s artistic directors are Madhusmita Bora and Prerona Bhuyan.

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