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theater, dance, U.S.A.
"Whither the hand goes, the glance follows,
Whither the glances lead, the mind follows,
Whither the mind goes, there the mood follows
Whither the mood goes, there is "rasa" born."
The style of dance I perform
most often is Bharata Natyam.
Bharata Natyam is
a dance style that traces is origins back to the dances performed in Indian
temples as part of ritual worship. Today it is widely performed on stages
across India and the world. It is both a window into the values, traditions
and philosophy of Indian culture and a media of expression of the new ideas
that have come into being as the contact and interaction of people from
various parts of the world and India increases.
Natyotpatti (The genesis of dance), 1998,
a piece where chants from ancient Hindu scriptures
are used to depict their salient features and show how
dance is thought to have evolved from them.
Natyotpatti, (The genesis of dance), 1998.
My introduction to Bharata Natyam began as a toddler when my grandmother
took me to watch rehearsals at the Kalakshetra Academy of Dance in Madras,
I watched and internalized the beauty of dance performed by both men
and women in that prestigious dance school. My mother grew up in Kalakshetra
and I would often listen with rapt attention to her stories of growing up in
that community of artistes and educators.
The next stage of my training began when my sister started dance lessons. I
would try steps, picking up little nuances and details of the dance classes
I watched. There was still a taboo of men performing classical dance in my
family and to a large extent in Indian society.
My family lived in Sri Lanka till I was 10 and moved to India due to the
ongoing civil war.
Asmita choreographed by Mudra in 1996, is about equality of women and men and the challenges to achieving it, combining music and dance from different parts of India and poetry by female poets and visionaries from around the world. Asmita means Nameless (in the feminine form) in Sanskrit.
Sri Lankan mask dance being performed at Borders book store in the DC Metro area, 2001.
I joined a middle school in Kalakshetra in Madras and it
was decided that my sister would continue learning dance there and I was to
learn to play the mridamgam (a percussion instrument used in south Indian
I loved the rhythm and sound of the instrument but my heart was set on
making the same sounds and patterns with my feet, fingers and eyes. I
watched every dance performance possible and absorbed and practiced but
never performed until I went to college and worked with a friend who was a
For a show in college she and I decided to perform a piece
that a dance teacher had choreographed for us.
This was my first dance
lesson and it was revelation to me at that point that I had indeed been
gifted with this skill and needed to practice and polish it. This was the
beginning of my learning both from friends who were dancers and their gurus.
The next significant stage came after I moved to the US and began a Masters
program in Gainesville, Florida, in Environmental Sciences and developed a
friendship with another dancer from India - Vinod Menon. We drew to us other
dancers and musicians in the area and soon MUDRA - an ensemble of artistes
As this was happening I discovered the Bahá'í Faith. To share the healing
message of Bahá'u'lláh with the world became my most cherished desire. My
dance became an obvious instrument towards this purpose.
I started tapping
into the group's pre-existing interest in moving out of the traditional
Pupil of the eye, 1998, dance movement with spoken parts, is on discrimination based on color. It's subtitled 'conversations of the color black with its creator' and draws from Hindu, Islamic and Bahá'í scriptures and traditions. Here the personification of the color black is in conversation with God.
Bharata Natyam being performed at Borders book store in the DC Metro area, 2001.
It is always a joy to introduce this beautiful art form and this glorious
message to friends and audiences.
Arts Dialogue, June 2002.
We began experimenting with new ideas and techniques with a
consciousness of social justice. Often the principles and Writings of the
Bahá'í Faith are used in our productions and I also continue to perform solo
in many venues.
Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands