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Hindu god Krishna portrayed in complex dance

CITRUS PARK — The stories of the Hindu god Krishna will be told in splashes of vibrant colors and rhythmic music Saturday in an extraordinary classical dance called Sri Krishna Leela.

Performing in the Bharatanatyam style that dates to 2000 B.C. in India, 28 members of a troupe from Carrollwood’s Shreyas An Expression of Dance studio will take to the stage at Sickles High School to re-enact the life of Krishna — his childhood foibles, his marriage and his struggles against evil.

The recital is in memory of the famed Indian dancer and actor Natya Peroli Padmini, who performed for the likes of Queen Elizabeth and Nikita Khrushchev. Padmini, who choreographed Saturday night’s performance earlier in her career, moved to the United States after she married and opened her own dance academy. Sheila Narayanan, owner of Shreyas, studied with Padmini for years before the dancer’s death in 2006. “She was really at the very top, the very best,” said Narayanan, 40, of Carrollwood Village. “She was most famous for her expressions. She had control of every single muscle in her entire face.”

Facial articulations are one key aspect of the dance form, which help explain the story line. A broad smile, a deep frown, a pained look, all help to convey what’s happening on the stage, making the stories accessible despite India’s many spoken dialects. “There’s no way people can go home having not understood the story,” said Narayanan, adding that a written summary of the plot is also given out at the performance.

The music in Sri Krishna Leela is upbeat and the rhythm is partially maintained by bell anklets worn by the dancers. Movements are highly structured, down to each finger and knuckle, and the overall dance steps are physically demanding. Shreya Narayanan, Sheila Narayanan’s daughter, has been dancing since she could walk and gave her first solo public performance four years ago when she was 12. Now she dances about 20 hours a week and helps teach at the studio. Saturday night she will play Krishna as a teenager, and as an adult.

“I feel so lucky to be doing something Padmini created,” said Shreya, a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Hillsborough High School. “I love playing the part (of Krishna), but really any role is so much fun because it’s all about being part of the group and enjoying any role you have.” Costumes and jewelry for this production can cost as much as $8,000. Should there be any money left over after these and other expenses, the studio plans to donate it to Students Teaching America’s Rising Stars, a school tutoring program started by Shreya and fellow IB classmate Shivam Kharod.

Contact reporter Sheryl Kay with any religion news at skreporter@hotmail.com, or call (813) 230-8788.

If you go

Classical dance
Sri Krishna Leela begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at Sickles High School, 7950 Gunn Highway. Tickets cost $10 and $15, with free parking and babysitting services. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (813) 335-8000 or (813) 760-0323.

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