Friday, August 24, 2007

El Paso performance

Dancers: Sheila, Neha, Sushma & Nikki
Indian Cultural Show:
Venue: 26th floor Conference Room, Regions Building in downtown (1900, 5th Ave N)
Organized by:Southern Natural Gas, An El Paso Company
Date: August 8th

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sheila Rubin Bharatnatyam-Founder & Director Natyananda

Ms. Sheila Rubin, one the earlier students of the Dhananjayan's dances in California (80's). The presenter is Ms. Katherine Kunhiraman, her dear friend and also a fellow student of the Dhananjayans. Visit Ms. Rubin's gurus website at .

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dr. Kalai Mugilan's Arangetram, Aug 12, 2007

Kalai and Sheila Rubin

Kalai and Sheila Rubin after the arangetram
What do you call a dancing man dressed in silk and gold, with makeup on his face?
Kalai Mugilan......

Dr. Kalai Mugilan had his arangetram on Aug 12th, Saturday at the Children's Dance Foundation. Family and friends cheered him on as he donned the grease paint to get onto stage to do a full fledged margam. Starting with a mallari he continued onto more intricate dances to finally end with a tillana. The second half of the program saw him more relaxed and it showed. The energetic Kali Kauthavam and the devotional Tulsidas bhajan gave us a glimpse into his dedication and all the hard work he had put in for this day.

Male dancers have to work twice as hard compared to a woman to impress an audience. The best thing about Kalai's dance was that "he danced like a man", without looking effeminate. This is not stating the obvious because a masculine interpretation of this art with grace is truly hard when all your colleagues are girls and ladies. Easiest way to learn dance is to imitate your teacher.... but he had to understand and reinvent dance "the masculine way" as his guru was a lady (no offense Sheila Akka). We all wish him more years of manly dancing bound by tradition.

Kalai has been learning with Guru Mrs. Sheila Rubin for more than ten years. It was heart warming to see him pay respects to his Guru Mrs Sheila & Guru-pati Mr. Lenny Rubin as per Indian tradition.

Deepa, his wife and all his close relatives were excellent hosts and fed us quite sumptuously with a variety of snacks.

Happy Indian Independence Day, Aug 15th

India Is Cradle Of The Human Race, The Birthplace Of Human Speech, The Mother Of History, The Grand Mother Of Legends And Great Grand Mother Of Tradition.
-- Mark Twain

India's Independence Day (Hindi: Swatantrata Divas) is celebrated on August 15 to commemorate its independence from British rule and its birth as a sovereign nation on that day in 1947. The day is a national holiday in India. It is celebrated all over the country through flag-hoisting ceremony, distribution of sweets, and of course, dance.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sushma and Shilpa's Arangetram

Uploaded to Flickr by
Deloye Burrell Photo
The Boppanna sisters had their dance debut on 16th June, at the Harrison Theater at the Samford University. The program lasted for about two hours. The dance kept the audience of friends and relatives enthralled without a dull moment.The sisters presented a full margam (a set of dances - the simple to the complicated - encompassing all of the Bharatnatyam repertoire).

All their hard work was evident from the very first steps of Pushpanjali, the shloka which followed just giving a hint of the intense abhinaya that was going to follow. The neat geometrical lines of the jathiswaram, enhanced by the soulful singing of Eswaran, paved path for the best number of the afternoon.

A varnam is the ultimate test of the dancer's stamina and skills, since it combines the elements of Bharatnatyam : Nritta and abhinaya in the right proportions. The abhinaya needs to be exact as you explore several moods in one or two characters. The sisters had chosen a todi varnam, "roopamu (d)zuchi" a timeless composition by the Thanjavur quartet of dance. They did full justice to it.

Uploaded to Flickr by
Deloye Burrell Photo
Guru Sheila Rubin, had made it rigorous and traditional, by not cutting corners to reduce the fast, razor sharp theermanams (highly rhythmic pure dance) which punctuated the soulful sanchari bhavas (mime). Although varnam's are generally performed in solo, the seamless splitting between the two sisters spoke volumes about the long hours of practice by the duo. The coordination and perfect synchronization of hands and feet many a times created an illusion of one person dancing with two bodies....

The abhinaya conveyed the sahitya (lyrics) content without exaggeration in both the javalis done by the sisters. The old "Natabhairavi" tillana a great favorite of dancers in the sixties (!!) was taken off the shelf, dusted and polished to all of our delight. The eye catching cross overs covering the stage left the audience spellbound. The music ensemble was a like good friend, helping them but never sneaking into the limelight. Clear enunciation of the lyrics and sollukattus (rhythmic onomatopoeic syllables) helped the audience to connect with the lyrics and rhythm. The musicians gave their best without drawing any attention to themselves.

The arangetram was both an inspiration and a benchmark for all the good students of dance.

Mrs. Shivaleela & Dr. Suresh Boppanna made us feel very welcome to their daughters dance debut. The great snacks at the reception after the dance were the perfect ending to a perfect program.

View more photos from Sushma and Shilpa's Arangetram here, courtesy of Deloye Burrell Photo.


Tiny Dancer
Originally uploaded by nailbender

Magic City Art Festival performance was a great success!! The cameras loved our dancers!! Check out our youngest dancer Nikki.

Magic City Art Festival , April 28th, 2007

Natyananda students performed at the Magic City Art Festival, Apr 28th Saturday.
Venue: Backyard production stage, Linn Park, Birmingham.
Shabdam by Nikki, Soumya & Krittika.
Padam by Neha, Smriti & Robin.
Tillana by Neha, Smriti, Kalai & Robin.
The padam will have live music:
Vocal : Ramesh
Sitar: Dario


Read about Sheila Akka's memories of India stay.

Shilpa, Sushma & Smriti dance at the Hoover Library on 28th September, 2006.

As part of the India Week celebrations at the Hoover library, Shilpa & Sushma Boppanna and Smriti Krishnan will be dancing on Thursday 28th, september 2006 at the Hoover library.

Natyananda performance for ICAB on September 9, 2006

Natyananda presents dancers Kalai, Sushma, Shilpa and Smriti in a scintillating Tillana at ICAB- Indian Cultural Association of Birmingham. Listen to to M.S. Subbulakshmi sing this beautiful composition. Follow the link and click on Thillana.

Celebration of India-USA Friendship Day
59th Independence Day of India
Date: September 9, 2006
Time: Social/Friendship time - 4:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Program – 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
Place: Alabama Power Company Auditorium
600 North 18th Street
Birmingham, Alabama

Honorable Lucy Baxley, Lieutenant Governor of Alabama will be the chief guest for this event. The program will consist of songs, dances, and short speeches followed by a sit down dinner with a specially prepared vegetarian and non vegetarian menu. Also, Dr. Navin Nanda, MD will be honored for his pioneering accomplishments.

Dance for Diversity, August 12, 2006

Dance for Diversity at the Alabama School of Fine Arts on August 12, 2006 has been reviewed by Michael Huebner for The Birmingham News:

Classical ballet could learn a thing or two from Bharatanatyam.

When it's done right, as it was Saturday at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, the ancient south Indian dance form can be mesmerizing, and it doesn't need to rely on athleticism, youthful vigor, leaps or arabesques to get its points across.

That may explain why a 72-year-old master such as C.V. Chandrasekar, the featured artist at "Dance for Diversity," can still communicate narratives as well as, if not better than, dancers a third his age.

Most of the program focused on the precise movements and varied facial expressions and hand positions that have entertained for thousands of years.

Sheila Rubin, director of Birmingham's Natyananda troupe, has trained her dancers well. In the opening blessing dance, five dancers carried lit candles as an offering to the elephant-headed god, Ganesha. They then unfolded a rich tapestry of subtle side-to-side neck movements and successions of hand, arm and leg limb positions, at times balancing precariously on one foot. The "Jatiswaram" that followed was a demonstration of Bharatanatyam poses and moves in its purest form.

Nothing in this concert could top Chandrasekar's seamless dancing in the solo, "Varnam: Rupamu Dzuchi." This Bharatanatyam classic has no story line; instead, it's driven by emotion and technique. Yet something in Chandrasekar's interpretation took it beyond that, to a kind of unexplainable spirituality.

The program's finale, a dance drama called "The Stonecutter," united seven dance traditions from groups in the Birmingham area. Although the segments varied in quality, the tale of jealousy, greed and their consequences was told concisely, with the help of Rubin's narration.

Stealing the show were Kisa Ogwaro in the title role and Jomo Xulu in the South African portion, whose high kicks seemed to reach to the sky.

Percussionists John Scalisi and Mark Freeman added just the right sonic touches.

Special thanks to everyone who was involved in the Dance for Diversity program, including: featured guest C.V. Chandrasekar, with Sheila Rubin, Robin Lai, Kalai Mugilan, Dheepa Sekar, Smriti Krishnan, Shilpa Boppana, Sushma Boppana, Kisa Ogwaro, Deborah Mauldin, Amelia O'Hare, Dario Irizarry, Susan Mwenja, Ramesh Subramaniyam, Natasha Cates, Anya Olinova, Natasha Russo, Rhonda Wharton, Sara Alvarez, Ilene Brill, Carl Cummins, Chalo Gurmendi, Peter Hanf, Corlyn Johnson, Beth Nicholson, Roswell Pfister, DeAnna Freeman, Liz Malcom, Wendi O'Kelley, Traci Smith, Colin Neel, Jomo Xulu and musicians John Scalisi and Mark Freeman, along with Mistress of Ceremonies Sadhna Malkani and all the wonderful coordinators, volunteers and sponsors.

About Prof. C V Chandrasekhar

Prof. C V Chandrasekhar and Jaya Chandrasekhar will tour the US in August-September 2006. This visit has been sponsored by the Young Indian Culture Group, NY. Their tour is truly a golden opportunity for dance-lovers and students in the US to experience the wisdom and artistry of India's greatest Bharatanatyam dancers.

C V Chandrasekhar, one of India's senior most Bharatanatyam dancers was trained at the internationally renowned Kalakshetra in Chennai under the mentorship of Rukmini Devi Arundale. He has imbibed from his mentor the best of Indian art, culture and aesthetics. He served the Banaras Hindu University and M. S. University of Baroda and retired as the Head and Dean of the Faculty of Performing Arts of M S University of Baroda.

C V Chandrasekhar is a multi faceted personality being a dancer, choreographer, researcher, musician, academician, composer and highly acclaimed teacher of Bharatanatyam. He has been performing for the past six decades in India and all over the globe and is invited by many dancers the world over to teach and to choreograph. A much revered dancer in his seventies, his presentation of Bharatanatyam technique is at its finest and continues to be an inspiration for all dancers.

About Natyananda Dance School and Company

Natyananda Dance School and Company, founded in 1978, performs both traditional and original choreographic works in the classical Bharatanatyam style of Southern India. Through student, professional, and guest artist presentations, Natyananda promotes understanding of universal artistic and cultural themes, while showcasing the rich and unique heritage of Alabama's Asian Indian-American community.

In 2003, Natyananda celebrated its Silver Jubilee with a gala multicultural arts festival, featuring the international acclaimed dancers Shanta and V.P. Dhananjayan and the Bharata Kalanjali musicians.

Among Natyananda's members, seventeen students have presented very successful arangetrams in past years. One more will present hers in 2014.

The work of Natyananda has been supported in part by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA); the Alabama State Foundation for the Humanities -- a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham; Compass Bank; State Farm Insurance; and Alabama Power. Long-time supporting organizations include: the Children's Dance Foundation; the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Birmingham; the Indian Cultural Association of Birmingham (ICAB); the Indian Cultural Association (UAB); and the UAB Department of Humanities.

Sheila Rubin, founder/director of Natyananda, studied and performed Bharatanatyam for twelve years in India. The Indian press gave her dance the highest praise in her years as a member of the Bharata Kalanjali Dance Company. In her subsequent years, her performances have not only taken her from the East to West coasts of the United States, but also to Europe, Central America, and the Bahamas. Here in America, she has been acclaimed as a dancer whose artistic integrity and personal warmth of expression easily transcend all barriers.

In 1987, funded by a grant from ASCA, she began to research and create new choreography, stretching the limits of this precise and well-developed art to clarify and communicate essential human truths. This work bore fruit in the production of dances and dance-dramas exploring inter-religious, moral, philosophical, ecological, and social themes. By creating new choreography with Spanish, Middle Eastern, African, Russian, Irish, and modern dance artists, she has also explored and expressed artistically both commonalities and contrasts between cultures.