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With a cast of 60, "Anvita" reimagines "Sleeping Beauty" through Indian classical dance

Staff Writer

You’ve probably never seen a “Sleeping Beauty” like this one.

“Anvita” is an adaptation of the fairy tale in Indian classical dance. Choreographed by six local dance instructors and featuring a cast of 60 senior students, the show will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Miniaci Performing Arts Center on the Nova Southeastern University campus in Davie.

“This is the second year we’ve done this,” says Smeeta Patel, chair of the educational and cultural programs for South Florida Hindu Temple, which is a co-sponsor (along with the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation). “Last year, it was only one night … and we totally sold out. This year, we have more money. The Indian music is phenomenal. There are custom-made [in India] costumes for this production.”

The extra money came from an increased grant from the Knight Foundation, awarded to Davie’s Ranjana Warier and her Rhythms School of Dance to “create cross-cultural understanding using Indian classical dancing.” Warier collaborated with five other Indian classical dance schools in South Florida to create original choreography.

“It’s very different to use ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ a fairy tale,” Warier says. “It’s not traditional at all to dance to a theme like that. Indian classical dance is very technical, with lots of rules. It’s very difficult to indulge people unless they have a really strong background in it. Usually, we lose them 10 minutes into it. We thought if it were a story that a lot of people already knew that we would attract a larger audience. [Indian classical dance] is really entertaining if you understand what is going on. But for most people, it is pretty obscure.”

Warier explains that she also found the famous folktale — via Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm — for the range of expression the choreographers and dancers could bring to it.

“There are mainly two features to Indian classical dance,” she says. “One is pure dance, the footwork and rhythm. The second part is expression, facial and body expression. The story gives a lot of range for me to expand upon.”

The other choreographers are Neha Shah with the Nrutyanjali School of Dance; Harija Sivakumar with the Vanee School of Dance; Aparna Matange with the Nritya Surabhi School of Dance; Priya Nagaraj with the Narthana Dance Academy; and Anandi Srinivasa with the Navarasa Dance Academy.

“We all get along very well,” Warier says. “Each school has a totally different style, and somehow we blend.”

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