Bharatanatyam Dance Concert Integrates Poetry, Movement, Sound

Dancer, choreographer and teacher Ramaa Bharadvaj wove multilingual poetry by the saint poets of India into Mitra, a dance celebrating faith, friendship and the divinity of life Oct. 29 at Scripps College’s Richardson Dance Studio. In the solo Bharatanatyam dance-story, Bharadvaj artfully combined elements of language, dance and movement into a seamlessly integrated hymn to friendship. 

In the first part of her powerful two-act performance, Bharadvaj began with the sensitive “Mitranjali,” which depicted the link she has with every “creation of god, big or small.” Her abhinaya, or gestures, conveyed the constant connection to our surroundings which we maintain through breathing and emphasized the value that should be placed on God’s intricate creations by abolishing any hatred and anger created
within. 

With an elegant finish, Bharadvaj imparted the message that “love prevails all” to the audience. Apart from showcasing the power of friendship, she emphasized the importance of the emotional bond between a mother and child and
how this connection forms the basis of all relationships across the world. 

Bharadvaj explained this further in a quick briefing in English, describing how the umbilical chord of amity
and love binds all living creatures with mother earth.

In the second act of the dance program, Bharadvaj told the story of friendship
between Lord Krishna and Sudhama from the mythological Bhagavatam text through a traditional Bharatanatyam approach. The tale recounts a classic story of friendship, which transcends class systems and wealth—the deciding factors of a relationship between any two people in the
Vedic times, between 1750 BCE and 500 AD. 

Bharadvaj showed the audience how a single dancer can paint a realistic and
vivid picture of different characters and their interactions with one another.
The story flowed seamlessly from one scene to the next and included the most significant events
of the friendship, lending the audience the ability to fully visualize and imagine themselves
in the story.

Unlike most dance performances, in which music, costume and lighting are given weight, the lack of professional lighting and extravagant costumes went unnoticed in Bharadvaj’s potent performance. 

“After watching a
fantastic Bharatanatyam performance earlier this year, I was so intrigued and
fascinated with the dance form,” Tara Dinman SC ’17 said. “There were no words at all, but her eyes and
her expressions seemed to say it all. Even though I was not able to understand
all of it, I was able to comprehend the main idea, which was so beautiful.” 

The movements of Bharadvaj’s body, hands and legs were completely in
sync with another. Her footwork was crisp, and the sound produced
resonated throughout the studio.

“As a dancer, I was
completely able to identify and relate to the message she was trying to convey,” Maddy Rao SC ’16 said. “Dancing isn’t just about physical strength or stamina; it is also a matter of
conveying the emotion and making the audience feel just the way you do. Just
like how music is a universal language, dance knows no boundaries and is the
most popular way of expressing oneself.”

Playing different roles is no easy job, and conveying a message without words is all the more challenging. Audience members were impressed by the sheer number of emotions, relationships and
characters packed into the hour. 

“It wasn’t like she was trying to explain something the audience wouldn’t understand; she picked a theme which everyone could relate to, which is friendship,” Rao said. “Her posture, expressions and energy really floored me.”

Following the performance, Bharadvaj participated in an an interactive session with the audience, in which she touched on intertwining two cultures into her work. 

“For me converting a plain story into something magical is
always a must,” Bharadvaj said. “Having lived in the U.S., where there is a strong influence of the
theater on the artists, I was able to adopt some of the techniques and further
my performance.”

While the cheers and claps of the audience were certainly gratifying, the act of performing is satisfying for Bharadvaj in and of itself.  

“I love performing solo; there is no pressure and no need to match up to someone else’s style, and thus I am fully able to express myself,” she said.

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