Yuva Bharati delights with its own December season 
- Prithi Kanakamedala 
e-mail: prkanaka@gmail.com 
Photos: Yuva Bharati 

January 10, 2010 

With the December season well under way in Chennai, it is always a treat for audiences abroad to be able to witness a glimmer of the same artistic quality in less sunnier climes.  California Bay Area based Yuva Bharati's final programming for 2009 did not disappoint. The presentation of four 'local' and highly respected teacher/artists, Rasika Kumar and Navia Natarajan (Bharatanatyam), Samidha Satyam (Kuchipudi) and Vishnu Tattva Das (Odissi) was an absolute treat on an unusually cold December evening. 

The evening opened with Pushpanjali and an Annamacharya krithi "Vandevasudevam" performed by Navia Natarajan. A gifted dancer, Navia's high energy, crisp lines, and sophisticated abhinaya were wonderful. Next, the dancer presented a javali, and ended with the self-choreographed, "Ananda Natanaduvar Thillai." The last piece was the highlight of Navia's performance, revealing her exceptional talent in presenting technical sophistication coupled with an artistic depth that can fully engage an audience. Navia Natarajan is definitely one to watch in 2010. 

Navia Natarajan
Rasika Kumar
Also showing the infinite artistic possibilities in the Bharatanatyam form was Rasika Kumar. She is a seasoned performer, both as a principal dancer in Mythili Kumar's Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, and as a rising choreographer in her own right. Kumar presented 'Shakuntala and Dushyant,' a piece taken from Kalidasa's Abijnana Shakuntalam, and "Jagadodharana" which explored the relationship between Yashoda and Krishna. Both items revealed Kumar's strength, the emission of emotion that felt authentically true.  

While there are many Kuchipudi performances to be seen in the US, it is easy to see that quality is often rather sadly sidelined. It was therefore a treat to see a dancer showing the form to its best potential. Samidha Satyam is a talented Kuchipudi performer that possesses the rigorous stamina, flexibility and grace that the dance form demands. That she possesses these qualities and adds the appearance of effortlessness and finesse makes her a "must-see." Satyam chose to present Kishore Mosalikanti's choreography, known for taking the form in new directions. She began with "Shiva Shiva Bhava Bhava" a tarangam that moves the item away from themes on Krishna. Satyam sparkled in her depiction of the dynamic and mighty river Ganga, who will eventually be trapped in Shiva's hair. The piece ended with the hallmark of a tarangam, the dance on the brass plate, and Satyam showed no signs of tiring despite the demanding and required energy for the piece. Her next and final item was a Balamurali Krishna Thillana (Beehag raagam). Again, Satyam did not compromise in any aspect, and the result was a high speed, dynamic combination of nritta and nritya. Satyam is a rare performer and an asset to Northern California's dance scene. 

Samidha Satyam
Vishnu Tattva Das
Finally, Vishnu Tattva Das presented Mangalacharan, Dashavatar and ended with Moksha in the Odissi dance form. Perhaps the most senior dancer of the evening, the joy in Das's performance was not lost in his execution but rather the lack of any real context for an audience that seemed more familiar with the other two dance forms presented that evening. While audiences have seen Dasavataram in the Kuchipudi style, it was worth pointing out that its appearance in Odissi is not common, and a proper introduction was sadly missing. 
In fact the greatest criticism of the evening, was the lack of any meaningful, informed or charismatic introduction to any of the performances. Yuva Bharati would do well to invite a speaker who could educate and excite audiences with an introduction not read directly from a piece of paper. However, despite its small operation, Yuva Bharati is quite rightly building a formidable reputation in the US, and with their rich online archive, the non-profit is an asset to any music and dance lover. 

Prithi Kanakamedala is an independent researcher and educator in theatre and performance studies. She is based in Brooklyn, New York