The 10 Incarnations Magnificently Performed in Dashavatar

Dashavatar performers Samyukta Hari, Shravya Arra, Sneha Peri, Harshini Ganesh, Rima Shah, Toshani Viswanathan, Tanooha Veeramachineni, Sanjana Jhaveri, Ragini Konde, Sreya Raju and Amulya Peri.

Dashavatar performers Samyukta Hari, Shravya Arra, Sneha Peri, Harshini Ganesh, Rima Shah, Toshani Viswanathan, Tanooha Veeramachineni, Sanjana Jhaveri, Ragini Konde, Sreya Raju and Amulya Peri.

By Zeenat Kassam Mitha | Photography by Krishna Giri

Growing up, most of my summers were spent as a counselor or director of youth camps where I had the opportunity to involve teenagers and young adults in leadership, team building and cultural learning. All of this was mixed with fun and fantasy on an amphitheater stage. It was one of my most rewarding experiences. So, when the opportunity came to share a meaningful cultural play performed by some incredibly talented young dancers, I jumped in wholeheartedly.

The Indian play Dashavatar was performed at the Wortham Theatre earlier this year. The visionary behind this production was the well-known dance instructor Rathna Kumar. Kumar is the founder and owner of the Anjali Center for Performing Arts in Sugar Land, the first Indian Dance School in Texas, which opened more than 39 years ago.

In the Sanskrit language, Dashavatar refers to the 10 (dasa) incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu, the Hindu god of universal preservation. Sanskrit is an ancient Indic language of India in which the Hindu scriptures and classical Indian epic poems are written and from which many Northern Indian languages are derived.

The curtain opened upon a handsome silhouette of Vishnu with the voice of the narrator, Rathna Kumar, explaining the reason for the avatars. The avatars in which Vishnu manifested himself were to save the world from evil forces and bring peace. The performance was a continuous storytelling through dance and drama. Each act was linked to one of three groups of dancers who were the Sutradharis (chorus), summing up the story through countless hand gestures and speedy footwork.

The cast of 40 dancers in stunning costumes made especially for this production gave a magnificent performance filled with grace, beauty and consistency. The opening scene included the chanting of the Vedas (from the Sanskrit word for “knowledge”). Then, there was the Demon Soma’s sneaky entrance and the chaos caused by his stealing the Vedas. With ocean-like waves cleverly formed with fabric, a picture-perfect mood was set for the performance. In the lead was Venugopal Josyula, assistant director at the Anjali Center for Performing Arts, who glided in and out of various roles. His choreography for the seven male characters in the play was very nicely implemented in the dance drama.

Kumar’s choreography was a work of art. The lively village scene in the Balarama Avatar featuring young folk dancers added a wonderful, rustic element to the whole production. Remarkable in their coordination of movements and accomplished footwork were the core dancers, many of whom are residents of  Sugar Land. In the midst of all of this action was the omnipresent Vishnu played by Nishka Bommareddy.

“Dashavatar was truly a team effort,” said Kumar. “The preparation on this took months, and everyone from the dancers to the staff and volunteers put their heart and soul into this production.” Kumar celebrates 40 years of opening up the Anjali Center for Performing Arts in Greater Houston, and the school, located at 2615 Cordes Drive off of Lexington Boulevard, celebrates its 12th anniversary in Sugar Land next year.

The use of levels on the stage was another talented idea. Avatars seemed to appear and disappear in a cloud of smoke. The aesthetic lighting elevated the choreography. Seetha Ratnakar, the artistic consultant for the production, designed all of the fabulous costumes and flew in from India especially for the show. Ramana Prasad and Shefali Jhaveri managed the props wonderfully for every scene. The music by Rajkumar Bharathi of Chennai was impressive.

It is encouraging to know that this production was funded in part by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance. With such partnerships, we look forward to more of these delightfully performed events and productions.

To share your ideas for upcoming cultural stories and events, contact Cultural Correspondent Zeenat Kassam Mitha at