Bharatanatyam Dance

Bharatanatyam Dance

By Shijith and Parvathy Nambiar

Saturday, April 29, 2023 | 4:30 PM

Upper Merion Area Middle School

450 Keebler Rd
King of Prussia, PA 19406

About This Event

Shijith Nambiar is an internationally acclaimed performer, choreographer and Teacher of Bharatanatyam. A former faculty member at the world famous Kalakshetra foundation for the performing arts, Shijith has established an independent creative identity based on his artistic versatility. His many productions have been presented at both national and international stages where they have been appreciated by critics and the general public alike. His exceptional sense of music and rhythm exemplifies his choreographic skills with unique traditional innovations.Parvathy Menon is one of the most authentic and traditional representatives of the Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam. Parvathy’s art embodies the highest qualities of restrain, aesthetic refinement and a technic that is both evocative and spiritual in its interpretation. Her profound and deeply emotive abhinaya has been appreciated by the learned and the cognoscenti.Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon, the Bharatanatyam Duo are the young ambassadors of this art form. Through their demonstrations at dance venues in both India and overseas, they continue to successfully awe viewers with the spiritual power of Bharatanatyam. Their selfless love and dedication towards their art inspires them to be unique and exemplary in their discipline. They are the recipients of The Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awarded by the Sangeet Natak Akademy, India, The Bharat Kala Rathna by Navaneetham Cultural Trust, The Obul Reddy Senior Dancers Award from Narada Gana sabha, Chennai among others.Shijith and Parvathy’s authority over their art attracts the attentions of all who witness them weave magic through movement.

Taniya Panda began her training in the Carnatic style of Indian classical music in Toronto, Canada from Smt. Vijayalakshmi Seenivasagam.  In her early teens, she moved to Chennai, India to take more intensive training from the acclaimed ‘Veena Vidushi’, Smt. Padmavathy Ananthagopalan. Taniya is also an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer having undergone training with Guru A. Lakshmanaswamy. She has performed solo, duet and group productions in India, Canada and the US both as a dancer and supporting vocalist.  

Taniya is currently continuing her vocal training with Kyvalya Chilla of Secunderabad. She is presently based in Marietta, Ga where she runs behind her two children. And when she isn’t singing or running in circles, she performs Bharatanatyam duets with her husband! 

Puneet Panda

With a classical, creative, and sincere approach to his craft, Puneet Panda is a vibrant performer with an effervescent joy for the inner realm of Bharatanatyam. He has performed extensively in India and the US. Critics have applauded his rare combination of energy and elegance while staying true to the tradition-bound purity of his Gurus, the Dhananjayans. Puneet is a deft nattuvanar and has accompanied many accomplished dancers. 

Puneet is a board certified ophthalmologist practicing in the Atlanta area. When he isn’t performing eye surgery, he performs Bharatanatyam with his wife!

Nagai Sri P. Sriram – MridangamNagai P. Sriram is one of the talented Mridangam artists (Indian Traditional drum) in the field of Indian classical dance and music. He had his initial training under Vidwan Sikkal Shri.R. Vadivel Pillai and continued with Needamangalam Shri. Kannappa Pillai ( Tavil Vidwan ). Later he had advanced training under Poraiyar Sri Venugopal Pillai popularly known as Tavil engineer, and also learned the mathematical intricacies of the Indian drum patterns from him. He has traveled around the world with many leading dancers and musicians like Dr. Padma Subramaniam and Chitra Visweswaran. He is the recipient of many awards like the Yuvakalabharathi and Kalaivalarmani (Gov’t of Tamil Nadu).

N Visveshwar – FluteN Visveshwar is an A-grade Carnatic flautist from Chennai who holds the distinction of being one of the youngest flautists to receive this grading from All India Radio. Since the age of nine, he has performed around 1,200 concerts at reputed sabhas and weddings in both the US and India over the past 17 years.Visveshwar is a disciple of his maternal grandfather, Singanallur Ramaraja, who was himself a disciple of the renowned Sangeetha Kalanidhi Palladam Sanjeev Rao. At the age of 14, Visveshwar was awarded the “Best Instrumentalist Prize” by The Madras Music Academy. He has also received several other titles and awards, including “Venu Gana Rathna”, “Venu Ilamamani”, “Vamshi Kaladhara”, and “Bala Kala Rathna”, in addition to being a recipient of an Indian government cultural scholarship.A Cornell graduate, Visveshwar currently works as a cloud product manager.

Dance Review

Nirvriti – Shijith and Parvathy

By Chitra Ramaswamy

During the long, dreary days of the pandemic many of us had forgotten what it feels like to attend a kutcheri in person. After plethora of online kutcheris which was a welcome change at the beginning during the quarantine days, it quickly became an overdose and I personally could not watch an online program for over 5 minutes without being distracted. No, it is not the artist who is responsible for that. It is that personal magic, that intimate touch that an in-person program gives the rasika.We had taken that for granted and never really valued it until we realized it’s worth. A lesson well learnt and it is indeed gratifying as an artist to know that no matter how technology evolves, the age-old medium of communication still thrives on face to face interactions.

It was during such a time that Sruti, one of the premier organizations in the US, which brings about unique initiatives, brought to the area “Nirvrithi”, a duet performance of Shri Shijith Nambiar and Smt Parvathy Menon. It was indeed a preparation getting to the venue. After years of mismatched outfits and unused sarees, it did feel like the first day of school selecting the best silk saree to be worn for the program. Traveling over 80 miles to the venue did not seem to be a chore. The malli poo smell that adorned the venue, the conversations with the familiar faces and the smiles from the unfamiliar ones added to the experience. As the lights went down and Parvathy’s introduction started, the school which hosted the event transformed into a space that was like none other.

The duo started off with a Misra alarippu. Alarippu (which sadly is prevalent only in arangetrams) is a heavily under-rated dance item. Now-a-days the first item of a dance performance is seen as though it’s a make-or-break moment where we often think we should leave the audience in awe at the get go. Hence, we come up with forced themes and abstract numbers just to create that effect. But this duo came up with this brilliant start with a very common alarippu which is known to any student of dance. With a simple, straight and a very neat presentation, they warmed themselves upwhile warming us of the fact that a simple alarippu presented right is all it takes to create the same impression that we all rack our brains for uniqueness.

After the brisk alarippu, they appeared on stage under two spotlights on either side with a serene virutham while the duo basked in bhakthi as devotees. The virutham slowly gave way to “Naamamrutha Paaname en jeevame endru nambineine” and what a brilliant way to begin a varnam instead of the usual entry with a nadai. The varnam progressed backwards from the third to the first line in a very subtle meditative mood and then the fireworks started. Shijith and Parvathy decided to do their jathis separately except for the first tri kala jathi. I asked him later for the reason and he said “It’s nothing in particular. We just felt like it”. Being in a duet performance is far more challenging than a solo because there is always one artist who draws us more than the other. Not because they are any less but at a given period of time, we can only be led by one artist and that keeps changing throughout the performance. Nevertheless, at a given time we only follow one. In that sense, keeping the jathis to each separately and with each bringing their own flavor of professionalism was a smart thought. Shijith with his electrifying footsteps, kanakkus and pauses and Parvathy with an answer so stylishly poised and yet making a powerful statement. The way they merge with one another at the end of their jathis was so immaculate. The sancharis have been so deeply thought of, carefully choreographed so as to bring the effect of Nandi expecting to hear the salangai, the bhaktha entering the temple hearing the Om that emanates from within, the elements that appeal to Shiva to be adorned by him and many facets and layers that we could peel as it unraveled. We reveled in their varnam along with them as they paraded us through the first half into the second half of the varnam. “NataRaja deva Sachidananda” was indeed apt for we were in the same state of Ananda like we were witness to a divine natyam.

Following the varnam, was Parvathy’s solo “Jagadodarana”. Though it’s a piece we have seen and heard so many times, the piece was choreographed so beautifully as though Purandaradasa was reliving the episodes from Krishna’s childhood. There is this particular moment which I can still recollect where Parvathy as Yasodha asks Krishna to get down from the Kalinga’s hood – the worry, the concern and love with her heart beating and racing until he got down was such a highlight. As a parent, I am sure we all go through those heart racing moments but to bring that on stage on demand so realistically is truly a mark of an artist who lives and breathes the character.

I would have never imagined a piece like “Swami Mayura Giri” being treated in a way Shijith handled it. To be able to step out of one’s comfort zone and present a piece from the eyes of a non-human needs a lot of courage and skill. The way the peacock woke up in the morning and felt the cool water and the warmth from the sun, the nervousness (“for lack of word for paraparappu”)of having woken up late and having to face Muruga and in that nervousness having traveled fast and getting a kuttu from Muruga. The many ways the peacock appeals to Muruga trying to pacify him was so endearing. While we were all wondering how one can think like this, Shijith was still on a roll where Muruga’s romance with Valli was depicted only from the peacock’s point of view leaving the entire scene at the expense of the viewer’s imagination. What can be more uplifting and more brilliant than this where the audience is taught to imagine and delve into the scene. Sometimes, we are told that we have to be true to the composer’s imagination but after seeing this thought process, I am wondering “why not”. Doesn’t our mind come up with various ideas and connections on reading a poem or a line? If we have the freedom to imagine that in someone’s words, I believe the artist has full privilege to reimagine an author’s poem. I am sure “Kavi Kunjara Bharathi” would have had a smile on his face watching this interpretation.

A befitting end was the purvi thillana which had its own set of surprises with varying speeds in music and dance deliveries. Shri Nagai Sriram on mridangam was electrifying and completely in sync with the duo and adding effect to the magic that was being created. Puneet Panda’s excellent Jathi rendition and his command of the many complicated jathi and swara cross patterns was indeed a treat. Tanya Panda on vocals provided good support to the dancers. The young Vishveswar on flute was a delight to listen & watch as he himself danced while supporting the orchestra so soulfully.

Overall, the program indeed evoked the sense of Nirvrithi – complete satisfaction, bliss, happiness to every rasika present in the audience. I sure hope we don’t have to wait another decade to watch this dynamic pair who are at the peak of their careers. I thank Sruti for urging me to write my thoughts on the program for it made me revel and relive those moments again.

Chitra Ramaswamy is a Bharatnatyam Dancer, choreographer and a teacher, trained under the legendary Padmasree Adayar K. Lakshman. Chitra is the artistic director of Sanskriti School of Dance in New Jersey. Chitra has toured various places in India for performances including solo and dance dramas.