Two generations, one tradition
- Ya Ya Silva Mendez

April 9, 2014

Local Mexican audiences as well as American tourists and part-time residents were treated to some traditional Bharatanatyam on March 28, 29, and 30 at the ShelterVG4 Theater in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Performing solos and duets in the Tanjavur style were Austin based dancer Anuradha Naimpally and her daughter Purna Bajekal.

Anuradha is Artistic Director of Austin Dance India, an organization through which she has been teaching, performing, and conducting arts in education in Central Texas for almost 25 years. Her daughter Purna Bajekal, a college freshman, performed her arangetram in 2012 but has been performing professionally with her mother since an early age. This production, which premiered in Austin, TX at The Long Center in 2013, was nominated for Best Duet performance by the Austin Area Critics Circle.

Prior to the dance, the evening started with a short film, Day in Life of Chennakeshava, a co-production of Chocolatemedia and Austin Dance India, setting the stage with artwork  from the Belur temple. The mother-daughter duo opened with a Pushpanjali, or offering of flowers, followed by Purna dancing the Ganesh Geetam, a series of three complex segments of dance and short verses describing Ganesh in ragam Saranga. Anuradha then presented a highly rhythmic Alarippu set to Sankirna Jati of nine beats and accompanied by sung Thirupugazh verses. It featured precise inflections of eyes, neck and shoulder culminating in well executed footwork. The Mohanam Jatiswaram by Purna was both graceful and dynamic.

In Damaru Hara Kara Baje, a traditional Hindi composition, Anuradha displayed the strength and vigor of Lord Shiva’s dance as well as his divine grace. The second duet of the evening was the Shabdam of Goddess Shankari. This powerful piece displayed the dramatic element as well as precise coordination of the duo as their movements reflected each other. The highlight of the evening was the duo’s signature piece of Krishna Nee Begane Baro with Purna playing the mischievous boy Krishna with delightful expressions which juxtaposed with Anuradha’s loving, yet annoyed Yashoda. The audience clearly enjoyed the dynamics of the two on stage.

The second portion of the evening presented two original contemporary pieces set to music by Anoushka Shankar and Taufiq Qureshi. After a quick costume change, the two leapt and bounded across the stage with fluidity, striking a balance of tradition and modernity in their approach. Finally, they ended with upbeat semi-classical choreography done to a Tamil film song by Shankar Mahadevan that brought the audience to clap along. The entire production was tied together by recorded narrative that included demonstrations of each piece.

The duo also presented a workshop on March 30th which featured basic steps and introduction to abhinaya or expressive dance. This was presented in the VG4 studio adjacent to the Shelter Theater. This was the first time that Indian classical dance was presented for audiences in San Miguel and surely is the beginning of many more such performances.

Ya Ya Silva Mendez is the manager of the ShelterVG4 Theater and produces performances and workshops at the center.