Sold out solo - a Tsunami Relief Benefit by Nitya Venkateswaran 
- Gomathi Sadhasivan, San Francisco, CA

February 9, 2005

Nitya’s solo performance at the ODC Theater in San Francisco on January 30th was SOLD OUT.  As I watched her dance in this intimate theater in the Mission District of San Francisco along with the packed audience, I thought “Rightly so.” The program was organized by the Venkateswarans, with net proceeds donated to aid victims of the recent tsunami in South India through BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.  

The 2-hour performance was a freshly choreographed sequence of 7 distinctive pieces, each one highlighting different fundamental aspects of Bharatanatyam.  Nitya anchored the show with an artful mudra/abhinaya punctuated introduction that preceded every piece.  If the Thillana showcased Nitya’s skilled footwork and temple-sculpture like poses, the mood of the Shiva Bhajan, the mother’s love for baby Krishna in Gopiyar Kunjum, and Tagore’s Chandalika came alive with her expressive natyam (dance).  

Ganesha Sthuthi
The centerpiece of the show was the Varnam, a composition of the Tanjore Quartet in Huseni Ragam.  Nitya portrayed both the heroine’s distress and jealousy over her Lord’s absence and the various manifestations of Lord Hari.  The cadence of Nitya’s firm footfall on the wooden floor in step with just the mridangam and cymbals as background music during the jathis was pure dance/nritta at its best.  In times when artistes whiz through the Varnam in 20 minutes, it is a testament to Nitya’s art that she held the audience enthralled during this 40 minute rendition. 

Particular mention must be made of the inclusion of Tagore’s Chandalika – the story of a Buddhist monk accepting water from an untouchable woman - to this recital.  Typically presented using Kathak or Odissi dance, the interpretation of Bengali music here in the Bharatanatyam idiom was seamless.  This is a compliment to the dancer and ultimately to the dance form that lends itself to a ragam and talam other than its core Carnatic music. 

Vishal Ramani, Nitya’s teacher, choreographed the show and was in the audience watching her shishya dance.  It was touching to see Nitya end with a namaskaram to the same teacher who aligned her into her first ardhamandali when she was all of four years old. 

The crowd was a diverse one and counted in its midst, seasoned bay-area kutcheri goers, young students of dance, as well as interested attendees watching a Bharatanatyam for the first time.  Nitya’s love for her art and evident skill ensured that this show appealed to the spectrum. 

Nitya has trained for 24 years in this South Indian classical dance form.  She started at the age of 4 from Vishal Ramani, Founder and Artistic Director of Shri Krupa Dance Company, the oldest Bharatanatyam dance school in San Jose, CA. One of the few second generation Indian Americans to pursue a professional career as a Bharatanatyam dancer, Nitya embarked on her solo career in Chennai, in the 2001 and 2002 Dance and Music seasons. She currently lives and performs in the Bay Area.