An enchanting journey through Indian dance at Wolf Trap
- Manju Subramanya
Photos: George Newcomb

November 8, 2014

The rustic walls of The Barns at Wolf Trap, Virginia, resonated with the exquisite sounds and sights of Indian dance on October 18, as dancers took the audience on an enchanting journey through six Indian classical and folk dance styles. 

The packed show at the prestigious 382-seat indoor theater represented a feather in the cap of the Indian Dance Educators Association (IDEA), a non-profit that includes dance professionals from the DC metro area, in their effort to take Indian dance to a wider audience.  It was one of the rare occasions that Indian classical dance had been staged at Wolf Trap, a venue that largely hosts mainstream American fare but is now expanding its offerings to include South Asian artists.

“IDEA has a simple mission - to bring great awareness of the timeless beauty and grace of Indian dance to a wider audience,” IDEA president Deepti Mukund, artistic director of the Natyabhoomi School of Dance, told the crowd.  The event showcased the talents of 35 local artists and 15 companies from neighborhoods in Maryland and Virginia, who came together to present the rich, colorful and glorious heritage of Indian dance.

Mohiniattam: Sangeetha Menon, Shobha Subramanian and
Aishwarya Subramanian

Christel Stevens and Noopur Singha

Odissi: Shreya Mukherji

Odissi: Jayantee Paine-Ganguly and group

The evening began with a Mohiniattam number by the Jayamangala School of Dance, in which three dancers in the traditional white and gold costumes of Kerala, paid tribute to the mother goddess through three of her incarnations, Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Next came a  Manipuri folk dance, giving thanks to the traditional gods and ancestors during the springtime festival of Lai Haraoba.  Two dancers Christel Stevens and Noopur Singha, wearing a sarong, white scarf around their hips and a headdress with white feathers, performed the gentle and graceful tribute to the gods.

The third item was an Odissi number, where sculptures from Konark came to life as the clock struck midnight. The dance began with the dramatic appearance of four dancers in silhouette, completely still. They then stirred and began their graceful Odissi dance, clad in loose brown salwars, with white sashes across their black blouses. The dancers came from the Mayur Dance Academy and the Jayantika Dance Company. Next came a Kuchipudi item by the Kuchipudi Dance Academy, where Bhagavatars or traditional performers, paid tribute to Lord Krishna for saving the residents of Gokulam from the fearsome wrath of Lord Indra, who deluged the village with heavy rains. Krishna lifted the Govardhana hill on his little finger and held it aloft like an umbrella to protect them.  A highlight of the performance was the adroit dancing on the edges of a brass plate.

Kathak: Sheila Oak-Maggin,
Uttara Bhave, Purvi Bhatt, Tina Sharma and others

Lakshmi Babu Bangaru

Bharatanatyam: Shreya Navile, Rithika Ashok, Pallavi Samudrala, Meghana Bhoopala, Aishwarya Subramanian,
Shanta Murthy, Aditi Sundararam, Nisha Pawar, Roushini Manjunath, Sapna Gopal and Nirupa Balendran

The fifth item saw dancers in gold costumes gracefully perform a medley of Bharatanatyam pieces, ranging from a traditional offering of flowers to Lord Ganesha to a fast-paced number depicting Lord Shiva as the supreme dancer or Nataraja.  The item ended with a brisk tillana that incorporated yoga asanas and paid homage to the Sun God. This unique choreography magically packed in a typically two hour long suite of dances or Margam, into a 15 minute dance.  The dancers came from the Natyabhoomi School of Dance, the Jayamangala School of Dance, Natya Nilayam, the Shrishti School of Dance, Nrityanjali and Salaingal Arts.

The last number was a Kathak dance that began with a fast-paced Tarana.  The scene then moved to the banks of the River Jamuna, where village girls in orange, red and green costumes splashed around in the river on a hot summer day with their beloved Krishna.  The dancers, whirling as their skirts elegantly puffed out, also depicted other stories about Krishna, like his antics teasing the village girls. The dancers came from Lasya Dance Academy, Arpan Dance Academy and Tina's Dance and Music Academy.

In her opening remarks, Deepti Mukund had told the audience, “Be prepared to be charmed this evening. And we hope you come back for more and more.” The enthusiastic applause in the theater through the evening indicated that the audience was indeed charmed.

Manju Subramanya is a communications manager in the DC area, having worked in the past as a senior newspaper reporter for the Gazette newspapers in Maryland and previously for The Economic Times newspaper in Bangalore.