Dancing For Guide Dogs

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Mudra Foundation to present charity performance

The dance studio highlights a different charity with each performance.

A one of a kind celebration fusing dance, spirituality and raw emotion is set to hit the stage at SUNY Old Westbury’s Maguire Theater in the coming weeks. On Saturday, June 24, The Mudra Foundation will be hosting a performance to showcase a unique take on Navarasa, meaning the nine emotions, through global classical dance styles such as Bharatanatyam, Kathak, flamenco, ballet and Japanese Okinawa.

“You never get to see all these wonderful, but different, styles of dance all in one place,” said The Mudra Foundation Founder Arti Datta. “The night will take on a true melting pot feel.”
Navarasa, “nava” meaning “nine” and “rasa” meaning “flavor” in Sanskrit, is a concept from the ancient Hindu text of the performing arts entitled Natye Shastra. It details the essential emotions that fuel humanity and human interaction, consisting of love (sringara), joy (hasya), compassion (karuna), anger (raudra), courage (vira), fear (bhayanaka), disgust (vibhasta), wonder (sdhuta) and peace (shanta).

These “rasas” are to be invoked in an audience through the performing and fine arts. Though usually represented by traditional Indian dance for spiritual means, this performance aims to integrate varying cultures from across the globe.

Arti Datta, founder of The Mudra Foundation

The performance, spearheaded by Datta, stems from the Mudra Dance Studio and its corresponding nonprofit Mudra Foundation.

The Muttontown-based Mudra Dance Studio was founded in 2003, aiming to provide complete instruction on the Southern Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam, one of the oldest types in India’s history, based on yoga-like motions set to music.

The Mudra Foundation, an outgrowth of the dance studio, was founded 10 years later by Datta with one specific goal in mind: to benefit charitable organizations, both locally and abroad, via dance and performances executed by the dance school.

“The idea of being art for art’s sake is great, but I wanted to go beyond that,” said Datta, who serves as the artistic director of the studio. “Now every time we perform, we highlight a cause because there’s so many wonderful charities right here on Long Island or back in India that are not on people’s radars that deserve to be.”

Since its inception, the foundation has put on a number of fundraising events, choosing charities based on “what is in need during a given moment,” according to Datta. Year-end recitals in the past have raised money toward relief for the Japanese tsunami of 2011 and the Nepal earthquake of 2015, to name a few.

Most recently, the foundation has presented performances to benefit those who are visually impaired, working with the Sankara Eye Foundation, which provides free eye surgeries to the poor in India.

When deciding which organization to focus its efforts on this time around, Datta, a devoted animal lover, was certain that she wanted the cause to involve dogs. When she came across the Guide Dog Foundation, which trains and pairs guide and service dogs with people who are blind, have low vision or have other disabilities, it seemed a perfect fit.

One hundred percent of the night’s proceeds will be directed toward the Guide Dog Foundation, and at some point in the night a representative from the organization will go on stage to present an video to inform attendees about the cause.

Datta is hopeful that the event, which begins at 5 p.m., will be met by a full-house, bringing together people of varying communities, cultures and interests. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit www.themudrafoundation.org.

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Nicole Lockwood is the editor of the New Hyde Park Illustrated News, Mineola American and contributing writer for Long Island Weekly.

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