Impressive performance by Navia Natarajan at NCPA 
- A Seshan, Mumbai
March 13, 2008 

I attended the dance recital of Navia Natarajan at Godrej Dance Academy Theatre at the  National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai.  She presented the following items.
1. Pushpanjali, which I missed
2. Varnam - Sakhiye Inda Velayil - Anandabhairavi - Adi - Tanjavur Quartette 
3. Pokade Ranga - Sankarabharanam - Misra Chapu - Devarnama of Purandaradas
4. Sankara Sri Giri - Hamsanandi - Adi - Swati Tirunal (described as a Sanskrit Padam)
5. Tillana - Revati - Adi - Madurai Krishnan
The varnam in Anandabhairavi is a composition of Sivanandam of the famous Tanjore Quartette. It is a real taskmaster given its length and complex jatis calling for the best from the dancer.  It became popular in the dance circuit after Rukmini Devi of Kalakshetra choreographed it and her students included it in their performances. It is cast in virahotkantita nayika bhava expressing the pangs of separation felt by the nayaki longing for union with Lord Rajagopala of Mannargudi. Navia's mukhaja abhinaya and quicksilver expressions on face reflected the anguish of the nayika in her manifold moods. The sakhi's lighthearted liberties with the nayika and the latter's absolute devotion to her Lord were well brought out. The sancharis were restrained and the stayibhava was firmly established firmly at the beginning and sustained throughout. Some of the adavus like murukku and mandi were executed well reflecting her mastery of angasuddha.  She danced the varnam for about one-third of the total duration of 90 minutes.

After the strenuous varnam, Navia continued her dance with aplomb showing no signs of fatigue or panting for breath. The Devarnama of Purandaradas was a good illustration for vatsalya bhava.  It was a welcome change from the ever-popular "Krishna Nee Begane Baro." The child as well as mother Yashoda was well portrayed. She is afraid that he might be kidnapped by his devotees if he ventured out! The Hamsanandi piece was appropriately choreographed as a padam. The tillana in Revati was noted for the usual sculpturesque poses and fast footwork. She introduced the novelty of the vocalist reciting the jatis followed by their repetition on mridangam; she danced to the latter like in Suddha Nrityam.

Aharya was attractive.  She is a thorough professional and impressed me with her total command of the medium. She knows how to make full use of the stage. Unfortunately there were only 50 persons in the audience. It did not affect her enthusiasm. The supporting artistes, whose recording was played, had done a good job although this reviewer felt that the sruti of the flute was a little higher than that of the rest and sounded somewhat high-pitched Navia continues the trend of science graduates taking to music and dance out of sheer love for the art forms. She has a Master's degree in Microbiology and had worked at a scientific research establishment in Bangalore. She has traveled widely in India and abroad taking part in several dance festivals. She runs her own dance academy in USA. She is now based in San Jose, California.  A charming stage presence, youthful energy without any flagging of effort, intelligent choice of songs and, above all, thorough professionalism in approach without bothering about the size of the audience are features that should help her in reaching a position among the top-notchers in the field.  

The author is an Economic Consultant in Mumbai and former Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Economic Analysis and Policy of the Reserve Bank of India. He is a fine arts buff.