In 2009, Saraswathi Rajathesh was having lunch with a friend and reminisced about a college-hood dream of learning the many classical dance styles of India. They had an Aha! moment which translated to Nrithya Bharathi, the idea being, to showcase all the classical dance forms under one platform. For good measure, it was decided that it would be a “travelling” festival, which would be hosted in various cities, to create an even more widespread awareness.
And so it was, that bharatanatyam, kuchipudi, mohiniattam, kathakali, odissi, manipuri, kathak and sattriya were all staged under one platform and performed in Bangalore, Thanjavur, New Delhi, and Aurangabad; one city each year. This year, for the first time, it will be staged outside of India, in Los Angeles.
The Doctor in Rajathesh’s name comes from being a dentist; though she has a Masters in bharatanatyam and kuchipudi. She is a versatile dancer, teacher, choreographer and has performed in India, Europe, and USA. She runs her own school, Natyasaraswathi in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and the United States. Her disciples will also be participating in the festival.
Another fresh aspect of this year’s festival is that it will have dancers from India and the United States. The program will start with an inaugural dance on Lord Ganesha by the Natyasaraswathi ensemble (US and India), followed by solos by guest dancers. The finale is always a fusion Vande Mataram.
The guest dancer lineup comprises kathak (Shubha Dhananjay from Bangalore), manipuri (Krishnakali Dasgupta from Boston), bharatanatyam (Rachana Rao from Bangalore), kuchipudi (Divya Natraj from Bangalore), mohiniattam (Dimple Rajesh from New Delhi and Doha). Speaking of how the cast, so to speak, is put together, Rajathesh says, “The rules are set by the festival committee, which includes artists from various parts drawn randomly.”
Aptly described as a “woman of action” Rajathesh has other events planned. One is to be called Vaidya Kalaranga, which in her words, “is a platform for medical practitioners skilled also in Indian arts …it is a Doctors Arts Festival.. for doctors like me!”
The other is Kelika, a Dance Theater Festival, the “only festival for dance dramas, solo, and group dance theatre which would showcase all dance styles including contemporary, classical, and folk,” says Rajathesh.
Nrithya Bharathi is a non-commercial venture, with enthusiast-families hosting the artists and volunteers putting in the funds and time to make the festival happen. There will be Indian cuisine available at the venue.
Aug. 22, 4 p.m. Park La Brea Theater; 475 S. Curson Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets: $25. indiandanceplb.eventbrite.com, (323) 549-5470, (323) 215-7576.