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July 24, 2007 > Teens win Prix Theatre Broadway Award at Prague

Teens win Prix Theatre Broadway Award at Prague

By Praveena Raman

Manali Deshpande (18), Suraja Raj (19), Mekala Raman (18) and Suman Tatapudy (19) represented Nrithyollasa Dance Academy (Fremont) in the 2007 New Prague Dance Festival Competition in Prague, Czech Republic, from July 1 through July 7, 2007. They were recognized for their artistic interpretation of the three pieces of the traditional Indian Classical dance, Bharatanatyam. These local dancers, one of three dance groups representing the United States of America, were awarded the Prix Theatre Broadway Crystal Bowl Prize. Other U.S. entries were from Maryland and Guam. Apart from USA, dance groups from Belgium, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey also participated in this event.

Divadlo Broadway or Theatre Broadway, where the festival took place is situated in the Namesti Republiky part of Prague which is at the interface of the New Town and Old Town. The 7-day festival was packed with activities from morning to night. Days started with dance workshops from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. covering a range of topics including jazz, modern dance, hip hop, classical dance (Western and Indian), folk dance and techniques such as Pilates. The workshops took place in the annex of the Rudolfinum, a concert hall where composer Antonin Dvorak had worked as a professor at the conservatory and a conductor.

From the workshops, dancers were then taken by bus to Divadlo Broadway where, after lunch, they changed into their costumes and got ready for the competition. The competition started at 4:00 p.m. and went on until 8:30 p.m. Competition performances treated the audience to an array of dances ranging from the classical (eastern and western), contemporary dances, jazz, hip hop, modern and folk dance. At the end of the day, participants were transported to their hotel (four star), situated away from the center of Prague, for dinner and rest. "My favorites were the jazz dance pieces by Guam and the Pirates of the Caribbean ballet piece by Belgium" says Karthik Raman who accompanied the group. "The Russian folk dance was also a favorite of ours" adds Mekala.

The local dance quartet and their families who had accompanied them to the festival joined 400 other participants who learned about dances and cultures from around the world inside Divadlo Broadway and also Czech history and culture outside the theatre as well. On the fourth day after the morning workshops the groups from United States were taken on an 8 hour walking tour of Prague starting at the Prague Castle and finishing at Old Tyn Square where shopping was in order. At the end of the day, they were treated to a dinner cruise on the Vltava River which runs through Prague separating the area around the Castle and the Old and New Towns. The final evening was the Award ceremony program, consisting of the best piece from each group, and a banquet that ended at 1 a.m. Manali Deshpande sums up the experience, "It was exciting to be with so many people from all over the world, with the same interest in dance, coming together in one place to display their cultural talents and also learn about other cultures."

The New Prague Dance Festival started in 1997 to gather people who love the art of dance, regardless of nationality, language or religion; to create opportunities for friendship of young people from all over the world. The festival also provides a venue for amateur non-professional dancers to showcase their artistic productions on an international level. Mekala, Manali, Suraja and Suman have been training together for the past eleven years in Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Indumathy Ganesh, Artistic Director of Nrithyollasa Dance Academy. Each of them had performed their Arangetram (two and a half hour solo dance performance marking the end of their training period) last year. Though they are at various colleges in California this year, they previously made the commitment to come together, learn and compete at an international level. This is the third year that Nrithyollasa students have competed and won acclaim in this festival.

If you are interested in participating next year in this enriching and rewarding experience please visit for more information. Information about signing up for this festival is obtained by email in the January-February time frame. An application must be filed by May of the participating year. Airline reservations should also be made in February or early March to get the best flight, fare schedule and allow a group to travel together.

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