A preceding program showcasing the potential of an emerging young dancer in the community, will feature Uma Kadekodi, a senior soloist of the Shakti Dance Company, Los Angeles. On day two of the festival, Oct. 8, leading soloist from Delhi Rama Vaidyanathan will be featured. Prefacing Vaidyanathan is a performance by Kanti Charugundla, also one of Shakti Dance Company’s finest. On Oct. 1, to celebrate Vijaydashmi, a unique student-choreographed group performance entitled Numbers and Images will include guest performances by students of guru Sudha Chandrashekhar of Hindu Temple Rhythms from Detroit, Mich. This program will also be prefaced by a Shakti soloist, Neela Moorty. Nritya Naivedhyam features Priyadarshini Govind and Rama Vaidyanathan, among the finest of bharatanatyam soloists in all of India. Govind, trained under guru Rajaratnam Pillai, has won some of the most prestigious of classical dance awards, such as “Nritya Choodamani” from the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai. Critics praise her for exquisite grace in lasya, impeccable precision in nritta (pure movement), and rare subtlety in abhinaya (facial expression).
Govind is now the pioneer in introducing her popular DVDs, Understanding Bharata Natyam, a learning tool that explains the repertoire of bharatanatyam to students of dance. Vaidyanathan, trained by gurus Yamini Krishnamurthy and Saroja Vaidyanathan of New Delhi, has also been celebrated in a number of dance reviews. Constantly exploring new avenues in bharatanatyam, she is praised for her creativity. Senior Shakti Dance Company soloists Uma Kadekodi, Kanti Charugundla, and Neela Moorty have all learned bharatanatyam for over 20 years under guru Viji Prakash. Each an educated professional in her own right (a speech therapist, doctor, and healthcare consultant, respectively), the three dancers find time for bharatanatyam in their busy daily schedules. Kadekodi has had a number of solo recitals in India and Los Angeles, but she has won most acclaim for her passionate portrayal of Arjuna in Shakti’s magnum opus Bhagvad Gita.
Charugandla has won equal praise for her range of character portrayals in Shakti dance ballets such as the Nutcracker, Moha Mudgara, and most recently, the portrayal of Duryodhana in Bhagvad Gita. Moorty just performed a solo recital for Yuva Bharati in the San Fransico Bay Area and flies in from Switzerland where she is on assignment with Amgen. “If classical bharatanatyam is to grow in America as an art form, organizers, donors who support the art, and audiences must come together to encourage and foster young talent who have shown the commitment to stick with the art,” says Viji Prakash, artistic director of Shakti Dance Company. Prakash has organized this festival and many others in an overall effort to encourage young dancers in America. These endeavors have given the local community numerous opportunities to interact with and be exposed to the best of Indian performers. Over the past three decades, Prakash has presented several innovative performances in Southern California, essentially popularizing bharatanatyam in the region. Commencing with the sellout performance “Dance of the Immortals” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Prakash paved the way for taking bharatanatyam into bigger and state-of-the-art auditoriums.
She has also brought artists and art forms from various communities together, most recently Basant Utsav (2006 B-Fest), Aum Sho Namah (Sacred Festival 2006), and the dance ballets Purandara Dasa, Meera, Shyama, Bhagvad Gita, and Prince to Buddha. Each of these programs involved guest performers and granted committed young artists opportunities to pursue this art form. Although bharatanatyam has gained vast popularity in America, for the most part solo performances are few and far between. Visiting artists are usually encouraged by organizers to present group choreography and opulent dance productions to entertain their rasikas. An appreciative audience for a solo bharatanatyam performance is limited and even when the events occur, they adhere to one of the following formats: 1) a visiting artist from India accompanied by live or recorded music, 2) an arangetram extravaganza of a
local dance student, or 3) a fundraiser by a post-arangetram performer, seeking a platform to continue her or his solo dance growth. Nritya Naivedhayam presents a refreshing and different picture. While showcasing the great masters from India, it also grants an equal opportunity to the young emerging artist who has seriously pursued dance for several years. “This unique interactive performance platform is vital for the development of the performer, connoisseur, and student of bharatanatyam in the American diaspora,” believes pioneer dancer, teacher, and choreographer Viji Prakash. —Vani Krishnamurthy Sunday, Sept. 10: Uma Kadekodi (4 p.m.), Priyadarshini Govind (6 p.m.). Sunday, Oct. 1: Neela Moorty (4 p.m.), Numbers and Images by students of guru Sudha Chandrashekhar. Sunday, Oct. 8: Kanti Charugundla (4 p.m.), Rama Vaidyanathan (6 p.m.). James Armstrong Theater, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance. $35, $25 general; $15 students with ID. (310) 781-7171 box office, (310) 837-5875 info.