Lasya does Bay Area citizens proud  
- Priya Das, California 
October 11, 2007 
Vidhya Subramanian 

No parent watching Lasya Dance Company's 15th anniversary celebration on the evening of Sept 29, 2007, (at McAfee Center in Saratoga) will be in any doubt that her child should be a part of the Lasya Movement. Kudos to artistic director Vidhya Subramanian on maintaining a tight rein on technical brilliance and ensuring that her students adhere to Bharatanatyam principles- thala, laya, clean lines of posture and expressions. Even the littlest of students showed off the biggest of smiles, a clear indication of the joy of dancing they must be experiencing, and an ode to the hours of patient guidance imparted by the Lasya teacher(s). The evening had all the hallmarks of good entertainment; engaging performers, a very listenable orchestra, eye-pleasing costumes and lights, and crisp execution. 

The first piece, performed by beginners, set the tone for the evening, and raised audience expectations. The little girls showed astonishing calibre while performing the cleanly choreographed Pushpanjali and Sri Gana Natha. The rendition of Ra Ra Venugopala as the next item displayed a progression in performance standards. The choreography also picked up a notch. 

Ninnukori, followed by Sadinchane were both excellent selections as the next pieces. Ninnukori, as a short and sweet varnam, kept the monotony of an otherwise lengthy group varnam at bay but nevertheless showed off the talent among the students to perform a varnam. Sadinchane, though longer in duration, allowed for a varied narrative, and since it was based on the multi-faceted and beloved Krishna, was highly diverting. The flawless execution by the dancers, however, made one wonder if the choreography was not too simple for them: They may have done justice to an even more challenging arrangement. 

Nadhiyum Penne was the highlight of the evening. A refreshing change from the traditional pieces, it acted like the final samam beat in a medley of music, where Vidhya and Lasya's senior students staked a claim to the mastery of Bharatanatyam. By superbly blending contemporary music and themes with an ancient art, it was like experiencing a new language using familiar vocabulary. Nadhiyum Penne reminded one of Paul Robeson's Ol' Man River, Bhupen Hazarika's Bistirno Dupare, and Shubha Mudgal's Jheel, in its exploration of the river as a mainstay in lives across generations and geographies.  
However, the composition of Nadhiyum Penne was at times disjointed. There was a need in this piece, as opposed to any other, to keep the conversation with the audience simple. While the attempt to precede each piece with a sloka or narration helped, the many songs that served to inspire the piece rendered the waters a bit muddy, and deserved either more time or more attention to depiction. There was also times when the audience was kept guessing by a dark and vacant stage, something Lasya should have avoided: The company is after all, in its 15th year! 

Anuradha Prabhashankar's showpiece 'Creation' would have been powerful enough with either just the adapted Japanese theme of elements or Wangari Maathai's poem. For instance, each element could have had its own time of day 'leaping' out of the central murky mass. Or just the Nibi narrative would have been captivating on its own. That said, the choreography was mature and caught one's imagination. The highlights being the elements separating out (Deepa Srikanth's leap was memorable) and Wangari Maathai (played by Anuradha Prabhashankar) being stunned by the realization that she is to be the Keeper of the Waters. 

Adeeti Ullal's Courage was crisply and simply rendered. Particularly moving was the Rani surrendering her previous life (depicted by her surrendering her symbols of being a Suhasini) into the river waters: The symbols being carried away by the currents, was beautifully depicted. Also memorable were the 'waves' of courage emanating from the Rani onto other citizens/ women, and the simple metronome created by the cavalry. The connection of the river to courage was tenuous at best though. 

Solace was interesting in that it underscored that the riverbank has been a friend of the friendless for long. This piece had the strongest narrative component, and Kavitha Radhakrishnan did full justice to it. The woman's longing to learn, hope for companionship and the subsequent loneliness was communicated by Kavitha well through facial expressions and aangika abhinaya.   
Destruction by Janani started extremely well. The destructive power of the river, in unrelenting waves, was depicted well by the girls. The narrative component was also well captured. The only dissonance was that even though it was essential to show Kannagi to be solitary in her anger and revenge, the effect of her wrath would have been more powerfully depicted had the choreography made use of all the dancers when the city is aflame. 

Joy by Deepa Srikanth and Nurturing by Kavita Thirumalai, each seemed like a complete piece by itself - well thought out, with enough attention being paid to detail. In Joy, Deepa chose to start with the baby elephant (wonderfully depicted by Kavita) playfully following its mother, and other creatures enjoying life. This was an unhurried depiction, serving as an elegant setting to the romance of Sivakami and the King. There was a quietness (read consistent messaging) to the choreography, which is Deepa's calling card, and that made one believe that joy and romance is a natural way of life, as ever flowing as the river. Deepa did not complicate the composition by needless expressions; instead, she chose to depict beings 'living' the joy. This sort of simplicity in approach was missed in the overall composition of Nadhiyum Penne. 

The hallmark of Kavita as a promising choreographer was that she used continuity of representation during her narrative. In the first part, she played the river reviving and nurturing 3 parched and dying living beings. She then seamlessly assumed the role of Mother Theresa, caring for and reviving the same 3 dancers, in the same stage-locations, this time depicting suffering human beings. Nadhiyum Penne would have benefited greatly had this structured approach to communication been adopted throughout. The freeze on the Mother with her wards at the end was also a master touch. (Reminded one of Hussain's paintings on the Mother).  

All in all, Nadhiyum was refreshing and one looks forward to its next, more cohesive incarnation. Congratulations to Vidhya for challenging her senior students and to the students for making this bold an attempt. 
The post-interval session was educational, Kanchishetram has a diverse history. Vidhya's effortless dancing is a treat to watch. I particularly liked the unabashed curiosity of the traveler, each time announcing her arrival with the same musical refrain. Vidhya is definitely a thrilling performer, and it was spell-binding, as the audience to go along with her, and as a dancer, to watch how she took the audience along with her- right up till the entrance to the temple, one sculpture here and another further along. I had to leave midway through Vidhya's performance, but I did miss having other dancers accompanying her on stage, it would have made for more innovative story-telling at times.  

Keep up the good work, Lasya does all of us Bay Area citizens proud.