Southampton Kandyan and Bharatanatyam Society’s (SKBD) signature event returned in style this year, with a polished and elegant format that reflected the effort of its new, specially dedicated committee. Once again hosted in the iconic Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton University, the second iteration of SKBD’s interuniversity classical dancing competition, Thaala 2017, brought with it new judges, new acts and exceptional talent from across the country.
Thaala began in 2014, simply as a showcase of Southampton’s classical subcontinental dance forms. Kandyan, a traditional dance from the town of Kandy in Sri Lanka, and Bharatanatyam, an ancient Indian form, have been taught in Southampton since Dilini Seneviratne founded SKBD in September 2014. Last year, the committee of SKBD simultaneously organised, hosted and competed in the event, which proved to be incredibly challenging. This year, to make it easier, the performers and competitors from SKBD were separated from Thaala’s organising committee, resulting in a fluid and well-executed evening.
In Thaala 2016, an overall winner was crowned. Indeed, last year’s winner, Iswarya Jayakumar of Newcastle University, returned as a non-competing guest act, delivering a stunning performance before the 200-strong crowd. In Thaala 2017, three winners, one from each category of dancing, were given trophies. The categories themselves were a little more exciting this year – along with the standard Solo and Group categories, a new “Wild Card” category was introduced. In this category, universities could enter acts which were not strictly classical. Whilst expert judges would decide the winners of the Solos and Groups, the Wild Card winner was decided by the excited audience.
Judged in ten categories, the performers in Kandyan, Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Kuchipudi received their scores privately after the show, so they could understand how the judges responded to their performances whilst it was still fresh in their heads. The judging panel this year saw the return of Kumudu Perera return from Thaala 2016, joined by Rakhi Sood, Ipsita Roy, Bhagya Lakshmi Thyagarajan. Finally, Jeya Raveendran, a famous Gaana dancer and choreographer from London, brought the panel up to five. Each of the judges drew their own perspectives and backgrounds into their comments, but Bhagya Lakshmi and Jeya also brought members of their very own dance schools to perform as guest acts, to the delight of the crowds.
Solo competitors: University of Nottingham - Shreeya Kotecha, University of Southampton – Saritha Choudhry, University of Warwick - Sreeja Cherukad, University of Middlesex - Archana Shah Sajeen, University of Newcastle - Chandini Sree
Group competitors: University of Birmingham - Angelica Lekamge, Natasha Rupasinghe, Nayanthara Perera, Nathasha Pandigamagei, University of Nottingham - Rhea Shukle, Shreeya Kotecha, Divya T.Raj University of Southampton - Maiurei Selvam, Ameeta Kumar, Shalaina Jannoo, Karthika Sathiyan, Pooja Rajguru, Saritha Choudhry, University of Warwick - Preveena Kulaveerasingam, Chandni Shah, Shaili Desai, Sreeja Cherukad, Schanhave Santhirasekaran
Wild Card competitors: University of Southampton Belly Dance - Yvonne Zanker, Sue Campion, Ria Singh, Leia Bagge, Emma Paul, University of Warwick Gaana - Piranavan Varman, Jonathan Guna, Sai Prashanth Manoraj, Santhiya Sutharsan, Jatha Praisoody, Ramya Jeyatheesan, Brunel University Garba – Rasleela - Parth Depala, Dev Barot, Hema Chhaniyara, Pooja Rajguru, Pankaj Patel, Chandni Maisuria, Vinesh Barber
The guest acts, including last year’s winner, included a variety of stunning performances from singer and musician Vibs Bhatia, who returned from Thaala 2016, to Jeya Raveendran’s very own Dance Academy, JRDA, as well as child acts in classical dance.
Guest Acts: Kandyan Kids - Kesha Kannangara, Thulani Dinethra Ratnayake, Sasini Nuthara De Costa, University of Southampton Bhangra - Yvonne Zanker, Lizzie Chick, Ashna Belani, Nirali Soni, Mathanisha Gajendrakumaran, Malayee Association of Southampton, Vibs Bhatia, Iswarya Jayakumar (Thaala 2016 winner) and Jeya Raveendran Dance Academy (JRDA).
In a stunning victory, the University of Warwick swept all three categories, winning Groups, Solos and Wild Card to take home all three trophies! Deserved winners, Warwick’s Solo act, Sreeja Cherukad executed a flawless and memorable performance, balancing a pot of water on her head, whilst the Group’s choreography flowed effortlessly. Warwick’s Wild Card team, meanwhile, a Gaana squad who competed in Kings of Gaana, were high energy and spectacular to watch.
Keeping what went well from Thaala 2016, this year’s show was photographed and videoed by Eternal Memories, a reliable and effective group who act fast and professionally. Similarly, last year’s sponsor, Unity 101 Community Radio, described by Dilini Seneviratne as “the best decision we made” in her emotional closing speech, offered their support and expertise, all whilst continuing to deliver their high-quality radio to listeners across the UK.
Thaala 2017 Committee: Director – Dilini Seneviratne, Assets Coordinator – Jithin Mullappillil, Acts Coordinator – Ann Manoharan, Treasurer – Ravi Jayanti, Secretary – Niruna Suntharalingam, Marketing Rep – Maiurei Selvam, Sponsorship Rep – Aneeta Kumar, Media Liason – Harleen Johal, Social Secretary – Sulagna Roy, Graphic Design – Shanujan Chandrarajah (Shanujan Designs), Audio/Visual – Jaimin Shah
We look forward to next year, and we hope that Thaala reaches new heights. Well done to the committee, the competitors, the guests and the judges, for a performance to be proud of.