Cricket fans present at the Sky Stadium in Wellington ahead of the fourth T20 between the Black Caps and India witnessed a dance spectacle delivered by Natraj School of Dance presenting Indian classical dance, Bharatanatyam and a Maori Kapa Haka as a fusion. 

Following New Zealand Cricket’s theme for this year ‘Bringing Cultures Together’, Natraj School of Dance in collaboration with Wellington Maori Cultural Society Inc and New Zealand community of Youth Ambassadors presented their fusion on Oscar and Golden Globe-winning musician A R Rahman’s much loved patriotic song ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’. 

Speaking to The Indian Weekender, Founder and Director of Natraj School of Dance, Prabha Ravi, explained her vision to blend the artforms of the two vibrant cultures and make sure uniqueness of both art forms come out as a fusion in the performance and not dilute each other. 

Conceptualised earlier in 2019, Ms Ravi went out on a hunt to find a Kapa Haka group who would like to partake in her vision, which was a juxtaposition of two art forms and dances and that it comes out as an epic to the world. 

Ms Ravi explained the concept to one group who opted out after some time leading her to the other group Hiwa Performance Creative Ltd. who heard the concept- which besides a fusion dance was a salutation to the mother.

“The group readily agreed to the idea, became very excited about the fusion dance and the vision of honouring the country as their mother,” Prabha Ravi said. 

The Maori dance was choreographed by Virginia Maxwell, owner and director of Hiwa Performance Creative Ltd formerly known as Manu Aute.  

The performance was titled ‘Vande Mataram’ based on the song as the two groups got together practising their different styles of dances and sharing valuable history and richness of each artform. 

“It is exciting to see so many messages and values that emanate through different moves and positions of the dance, and we as two diverse cultures share,” Ms Prabha Ravi added.

This was not the first time NSD had performed a fusion dance, Ms Prabha Ravi, a renowned classical dancer and choreographer herself presented a fusion of Indian classical Bharatanatyam and Samoan Fire Dance in 2002, with Sri Lankan Kandyan Dance in 2012 and 17, and with a Western Classical Balle in 2015. 

“It was my long-time dream and vision to present such a fusion that exhibited the values of the Maori culture and the Indian classical dance form at the same time, and the performance ‘Vande Mataram’ was a perfect fusion I had envisioned. 

“Most importantly, I applaud the Maori Kapa Haka group who understood not just the dance fusion theme but also the sentiments and values attached to the song we were performing,” Ms Ravi said. 

The final dance performance had a total of 34 people, 17 from each side, including five children from each side as flag bearers of the two countries. 

The original performance which was of 15 minutes was done on India’s 71st Republic Day celebrations bat Bharat Bhavan by the High Commission of India in Wellington on January 27, last month. 

On the evening of the fourth T20 between Black Caps and India at Sky Stadium in Wellington, the group performed the fusion on the cricket ground witnessed by thousands of fans in the stadium which was also screened on the big screens of the stadium. 

“Indeed, the performance was unique, powerful and it was received with thunders of applause echoing in the stadium, a standing ovation by the spectators and the best part was the crowd singing ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ in unison. 

“This was the best feeling in the world,” Ms Ravi added. 

About Prabha Ravi:

Teacher and choreographer Prabha Ravi was one of the three judges in the first season reality TV Three dance show 'The Great New Zealand Dance Masala' and was also in the panel of judges for Hutt's Got Talent 2019 and The Hutt City Youth Awards. 

Ms Prabha Ravi also serves as a Justice for the Peace and for her services to the art she has received the Queens Service Medal in 2018, Civic Honour Award by the Hutt City Council in 2012, Culture Award by Upper Hutt Multicultural Council in 2013 etc. 

Apart from her contribution to art and culture, she also sits on various boards such as Cricket Wellington, Women on Boards, Education Wellington International, Drama NZ and is the Chair of the Hutt Valley District Health Board Consumer Council. She is also the founder and manager of the Namasankeerthanam Group, a voluntary community group comprising of several families coming together every week to sing bhajans for world peace and harmony.