Thursday, October 17, 2013
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
Natyananda, the Birmingham dance troupe founded by Sheila Rubin in 1978, celebrated its 35th anniversary Saturday with a stunning display of Bharatanatyam, the classical dance tradition that originated in South India 2,000 years ago. Multi-armed deities, elaborate costumes and leggings, sculpturesque poses, neck and eye movements, and a wide array of poignant and celebrative narratives unfolded in nine dances on the Bell Theatre stage at UAB. One of India's finest dancers – Venkatakrishnan Mahalingam (V.K. for short) – joined for two solo dances and two ensemble numbers, placing in sharp perspective the artistic and technical discipline Rubin has instilled in her 40 or so dancers.
To all but a few devotees of Indian culture, Natyananda has remained mostly under the radar for the better part of three decades. But the packed theater indicated that has changed. Indian families – mothers and daughters adorned in colorful saris – and Western patrons alike turned out.
|Click to enlarge and read the dancer's names!|
A puja invocation, performed in front of a shrine, began the event with prayers, candles, flowers and incense. A lotus dance by the entire troupe followed, young dancers arching their backs in a circular formation indicating the open of a blossom, four taller dancers in the center reaching to the sky. Another ensemble number, “Ganapati Vandanam” centered on the elephant-headed, obstacle-removing deity, Ganesha, with a series of a still poses and ensemble movements.
Vindhya Bassetti, Krishna Pulipaka, Arushi Kotru, Prasanna Bassetti
Nikki Karnam (back) VK (center), Smriti Krishnan & Sheila Rubin
Photo by Deloye Burrell
Rubin, who studied in the 1970s at the same school as V.K. in Chennai, India, revealed her virtuosity in “Rupana Dzuchi,” an homage to Lord Shiva. While Rubin possesses the physicality to carry out this difficult dance, it was the emotion revealed in her facial gestures that drew attention. Within a short time span, she expressed sorrow, despair and elation, empathy, cheerfulness and mourning. She was, to paraphrase cultural scholar Joseph Campbell, a woman with a thousand faces, each convincingly realized.
Monday, May 13, 2013
By Michael Huebner firstname.lastname@example.org al.com
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- For the last 35 years, Sheila Rubin has been bridging two very different cultures a half a world away through the universal language of dance.
To mark the milestone of the founding of her Birmingham Indian troupe, Natyanananda, Rubin will bring to the city one of India's finest practitioners of Bharatanatyam, an Indian dance form that has survived for 2,000 years.
Venkatakrishnan Mahalingam, or V.K. as he is called, will be the featured artist at Natyananda's 35th Birthday Anniversary concert on Saturday, June 8, at UAB's Bell Theatre, 700 13th Street South. He will be joined by Rubin, two of her company's prized dancers, and the remainder of the 40-member company.
The connections are palpable. V.K. is a solo dancer who trained at Bharata Kalanjali, the school founded in the late 1960s by V.P. and Shanta Dhananjayan. The Dhananjayans, in turn, were associated with Kalakshetra, another revered, and even older, institution that traces its origins to Rukmini Devi, the most important revivalist of Indian dance.
The discipline of Bharatanatyam keeps them focused. It combines the mystical with the metaphysical, spiritual narratives with emotionless technique. Costumes are extremely elaborate, with colorful silk embroidery, headdresses and abundance of percussive leggings and jewelry.
Often based on ancient epic poetry, the narratives can be complex, but the equally complex system of hand and limb movements, statuesque poses, and back-and-forth eye and head movements helps narrow the far-away story lines to a dramatic level that anyone can understand.
"There will be nothing cross-cultural," she said. "Just the purity and beauty of traditional dance. For me, nothing compares with it."
All 40 troupe members will participate, with two of Rubin's best students in the spotlight. Smriti Krishnan, who performed her arangetram, or "rite of passage," in 2009, will be dancing, and so will Neha Udayakumar, who performed her arangetram in 2011. Rubin believes they will make a nice complement. "Smriti is very dramatic and intense," she said. "Neha is a different personality than Smriti. She is pure sweetness, just exquisite."Unlike traditional concerts in India, the event shouldn't last longer than 90 minutes.
"My teachers' motto was, 'leave the audience wanting more.' Don't satiate them."
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Monday, October 8, 2012
Muruga Kauthavam at Museum of Art, B'ham
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Natyananda students performed the following dances for the Indian Cultural Society sponsored Gandhi Jayanthi Celebrations on Oct 2nd, 2011 at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Natyananda student, Neha Udayakumar, performed Bharatanatya Arangetram on July 23rd, 2011 at Harrison theater, Samford University, Birmingham, AL with musicians from India. Ramesh Babu on Mridangam, Easwar Ramakrishnan on Violin and Nandakumar Unnikrishnan's vocal provided grand accompaniment and enthralled the audiences. Sheila Akka's incredible first ever Nattuvangam performance was spot on throughout.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
All the students of Natyananda performed a beautiful dance drama Kuravanji at the Birmingham Museum of art as a part of Gandhi Jayanthi celebarations on Oct 3rd, 2010.
Kuravanji Part1 ; Part2 ; Part 3; Part 4,; thanks to Preethi's Parents for the videos.
As usual Sheila akka's choreography is very eye catching and all the little kids look adorable.