Shoba Sharma: Amazing abhinaya and dazzling nritya 
- Uma Venkatraman 
Photos: BD Radhakrishan 

 May 18, 2009 

There was complete silence in the La Jolla auditorium. It was packed to capacity and not a single empty seat could be found. Shoba Sharma had the huge audience spellbound with her Bharatanatyam presentation in the second annual music and dance festival organized by Indian Fine Arts Academy of San Diego. That she was a dancer extraordinaire was evident from the moment she stepped on to the stage. Her smooth yet bold movements demonstrated a lifetime of devotion to the art form. She embodied confidence, grace, elegance, innovation, precision and above all, tremendous stage presence. 

Shoba began her recital with an invocation to Lord Ganesha in raga Gambheera Natai. She then performed a Nrithyopaharam in raga Huseni (the famous Tanjore quartet swarajathi). In this piece, the heroine asks the Lord, Have you forgotten me so easily? Has some other woman poisoned your mind and turned you against me? You always listen to the entreaties of your devotees. Why do you not hear my words, my beloved Lord?"  Shoba performed this with elan. Her footwork was crisp and she executed the jathis with precision. A striking aspect of this piece was her remarkable abhinaya. Her sanchari bhavas was a visual delight. 

She then performed the heartrending "Yenna Thavam Sheithane" in raga Kapi. As noted by Vilayanur Ramachandran, "Especially noteworthy were the lasya, bhava and abhinaya portrayed in this piece.  The item was depicted with great poignancy and verve by Shoba. It was a dazzling performance!" She successfully created the mood by reminding us of our own child indulging in mischief and bringing forth the rasas of love and tenderness. Shoba's soulful abhinaya made many in the audience misty eyed. 

The following item was a contemporary and a thought provoking composition 'Neelakantare' in raga Begada (composed by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan). The dancer speaks to Lord Shiva, "You saved the world by drinking the poison which emerged from the churning of the milky ocean and your throat turned blue. We humans have poisoned the earth so much. Now is the time for you to come and drink and all this poison. Maybe your entire body will now turn blue!" This had a special impact on all of us with concerns regarding the conservation of our planet. The Nrittangaharam in raga Brindavani with its imaginative choreography by the Dhananjayans provided an enthralling finale to the recital.

Shoba's dance transported us back in time to the days during which the stories took place. The audience particularly loved the unique dramatic narratives that she presented before each piece. It greatly enriched the appreciation of the following dance. For many, she opened up a new window into the world of story telling through meticulously crafted intricate hand movements and dramatic eye expressions.

The San Diego audience did not want the program to end.  Needless to say, Shoba received a standing ovation for her spectacular performance. This was the first full length program given by Shoba in San Diego after she moved from Philadelphia, and the San Diego audience is looking forward to many more wonderful evenings of dance by Shoba. Her excellent musical ensemble included Sangeetha Prasanna (nattuvangam), Revathi Subramanian (vocal), Kalyan Vaidyanathan (mridangam), Radhakrishnan R (flute) and Nishanth Chandran (violin). 

Written by Uma Venkataraman with contributions from V Ramachandran (UCSD).