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January 27, 2010 > Celebrating twenty years of dance

Celebrating twenty years of dance

By Praveena Raman

Nrithyollasa Dance Academy in Fremont is celebrating its twentieth birthday with a production of "Natana Saram," the Quintessence of Dance on January 30 at the Jackson theatre, Ohlone College.

In the late eighties Indumathy Ganesh came to the Bay area as a young bride. A professional dancer, she had received training in Bharatanatyam, an ancient classical dance of Southern India. In response to requests from parents in the community Ganesh decided to start teaching this art form and impart a love for the Indian culture. In 1989 she established Nrithyollasa Dance Academy in Fremont.

The school soon flourished and now has branches in Saratoga and Pleasanton. Students have performed extensively in local community events, winning awards and acclaim. The school has fifty graduates who have all gone through ten to twelve years of rigorous and intense training starting as young as five years of age. They culminate their training between the ages of 15 to 17 years with a two and a half hour solo dance performance showcasing the different elements of Bharatanatyam. Many graduates have represented the school at an International Dance Festival in the Czech Republic, receiving awards for flawless execution of the dances.

Bharatanatyam traces its theory back to the Natya Shastra, a dramatic treatise written in 400 B.C. Its origins lie in ritual dancing of the devadasis - temple dancers - and in classical rules of Indian theatre arts. It can be compared to classical ballet with regard to the technique, form of presentation and rigorous training although the spectrum of movements and narrative content are fundamentally different. The repertoire includes abstract and narrative dances in a particular sequence.

Bharatnatyam consists of three basic elements - Nritta (Rhythm), Nritya (expression through the use of hand gestures and body movements) and Natya (dramatization). The name Bharatanatyam has within it Bha for Bhava or abhinaya for expression, Ra for raga or melody and Ta for tala or rhythm. This is a stylized dance with intricate rhythmic footwork where the mudras (hand position), abhinaya (facial expressions) and padams (narrative dances) form the basis of a performance.

The characteristic feature of Bharatanatyam is the division of the body into three parts, head, bust and torso. The dance is accompanied by music, usually a live orchestra consisting of a singer, mrindangam (drum) player, violinist and the Nattuvangam. Bharatanatyam is in essence a dedicatory dance that is considered a divine art form as it originated in the Temples of South India.

Indumathy Ganesh, who has danced worldwide and won accolades including the titles of Natya Mayuri and Lalitha Kala Rathna, and her students, will present the different stages in a dancer's journey to attain absolute devotion in Natana Saram. They will be accompanied by a live orchestra of leading Bay Area artists, Asha Ramesh, Vocal, N. Narayan on Mridingam, Shathi Narayan on the Violin, Raghavan Manian on the flute and A. Mahadevan on Morsing.

Natana Saram
Saturday, January 30
2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Jackson Theatre, Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont.
(510) 623-8230

General Admission - $15
Students/Seniors - $12
Donor Reserved - $30
Family (4 tickets) - $50

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