Sunanda's Performing Arts presents Narthaki Dance Festival

April 29, 2011

The Narthaki Dance Festival was started by Sunanda Nair, herself a dancer, teacher and choreographer. This is the second year her school hosted the festival to encourage and provide opportunities to dancers in USA as well as to educate and entertain the spectators in Houston of the Indian classical traditions. This year's performers included Shriya Srinivasan, Anwesha Das, Niharika Mohanty and Janaki Rangarajan.

Shriya, a multifaceted teenager, began learning Bharatanatyam from her mother Sujatha Srinivasan from the age of five. Winner of the first prize at the 2009 Cleveland Aradhana's Bharatanatyam competition, Shriya has danced several roles in dance dramas such as Pibare Krishnarasam, Shadripu, Andal, and Minstrels of God. Shriya has been acclaimed for her solo performances in St. Louis, Rochester, SV Temple Pittsburgh and Chennai, India.

Shriya started her performance with Bhaja Manasa in Raga Bahudhari, a composition of Thulasivanam. It was an apt beginning to the festival with an invocatory dance number describing the elephant-headed God Ganesha. Then the dancer performed "Alokaye Sri Balakrishnam" in Ragam Chenjurutti and Adi talam, a Narayana Theertha composition. This was an item which Shriya did complete justice to, and was able to communicate effectively, the episode of Krishna stealthily stealing butter and charming the Gopis of Brindavan as well the rasikas. Shriya next presented a javali "Mariyada Teliyakane" in Ragam Suruti and Rupaka talam, a composition of Patnam Subramanya Iyer. In this Javali, a Khandita nayika rebukes the inappropriate behavior of the nayaka . She tells her friend about his various improper acts in public and reprimands him. She does not approve of his teasing and questions his actions. This was followed by a tillana in Ragam Kadanakuthoohalam and Adi talam, a composition of maestro Balamuralikrishna. Shriya presented the elaborate sequence of pure rhythmic movements, sculptural poses beautifully and intricate footwork building up to a brilliant climax.
Shriya Srinivasan
Anwesha Das
The second artiste for the evening was Anwesha Das, a student of leading Bharatanatyam dancer Urmila Sathyanarayanan, Chennai. Anwesha has been credited with several prestigious awards from leading Indian cultural organizations including the Yuva Kala Bharati from Bharat Kalachar and Natya Chudar from Kartik Fine Arts. In last year's Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana, she was adjudged best dancer in the senior category and also awarded for the best performance across 40 dancers. Anwesha is also a graded artiste of Doordarshan, India's national television channel.

Anwesha started with a Pushpanjali in Gambhiranattai, and immediately connected with the audience with her wonderful stage presence. The next item she chose to perform was the ever favourite "Thumak chalata Ramchandra." The item clicked an instant rapport with the audience and the artiste was able to convincingly portray the love of Kausalya for her favourite son Rama. She concluded with a tillana in ragam Kanada, rich in technique and grace.

Niharika Mohanty from California is a leading Odissi dancer in North America and is a senior disciple of the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She continues to refine her dance under his gifted and renowned son and daughter-in-law, Guru Ratikant and Sujata Mohapatra. Niharika also possesses an MA in Dance and is the recipient of several grants and awards. She is the Director of Guru Shradha, an institution dedicated to continuing her Guru's dance tradition in this part of the world.

Niharika started her performance with a Pallavi in Behag. Pallavi is pure dance and implies elaboration; an exposition not only of the dance but also of the music that accompanies it. The graceful and lyrical movement of the dancer's form is supported by intricate rhythm patterns of exceptional beauty. Together they create a beautiful tapestry of rhythm, music and movement. This lyrical and graceful item presented by Niharika was a choreography of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and the music was by Pt. Bhubaneshwar Mishra. Niharika then presented "Jaya Mahesh" choreographed by her Guru Ratikant Mohapatra in Raga Behag and Ekatali. Mahadeva with his blue throat circled by the poisonous serpent, Shiva, the omnipotent, and when we utter his sacred name, he blesses us with salvation - the release from the unending circle of life and death. The great god Shiva, whose crested head is adorned by a resplendent half moon. Mahadeva, who covers his torso with a deerskin, his waist enriched by a snake - he who holds in his head the sacred river Ganga. Niharika's dance was an absolute delight.
Niharika Mohanty
Janaki Rangarajan
The last artiste of the evening was Janaki Rangarajan, one of the leading Bharatanatyam dancers of India today and a senior disciple of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. Janaki has performed in the US, Canada, India and Thailand. She is an empanelled artist of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Arts Council of Fairfax County. In 2010, Janaki was awarded the Strauss Fellowship for Choreography and was selected to perform at the DC Host Committee Showcase during the Dance/USA conference in Washington, DC. Also in 2010, Janaki was a finalist in the "outstanding individual performance" and "emerging choreographer" categories of the Metro DC Dance Awards and has been awarded the titles of Singar Mani and Sathya Nrithya Sundaram from leading organizations in India.

Janaki presented only one item for the evening, a Varnam, "Swamiyai Azhaittodivaa" in Ragamalika and Adi talam, a composition of KN Dandayudhapani Pillai. The choreography was by Janaki Rangarajan herself. Varnam, the last item for the evening, was definitely the icing on the cake. An absolutely brilliant performer, completely in command over her technique and a smooth flowing abhinaya was a spectator's delight. Janaki kept the audience enthralled by her performance and left asking for more.

In all, it was a great evening of beauty, poise and grace.