Dancing to the rhythm of the seasons
- Manju Subramanya
e-mail: manjusub2@gmail.com
Photos: George Newcomb

July 11, 2015

Performing seven solo Bharatanatyam dances in a row is tough enough.  Add the complexity of the solo dancer emceeing her own show and you have quite a task. But Shreya Navile, 17, of Potomac, Maryland pulled off a performance as dancer and emcee as she presented ‘Ritu-Mala: The Garland of Seasons’ at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater in Rockville, Maryland, on June 26.
The program organized by the Natyabhoomi School of Dance depicted the emotions of a woman through the seasons, tormented by and besotted with Krishna. Much as the seasons blow hot and cold, the woman goes through the different stages of emotions - from anticipation to frustration to despair to scorn, and finally to joy. Shreya introduced each dance with a short explanation, accompanied by graceful gestures and expressions. This worked well to make this complex dance form more relatable to the diverse audience.

Shreya began the show with a Pushpanjali that described the ‘nayika bhavas’ or the different emotions experienced by a woman in her desire for love, through the seasons. The graceful dance served as a prelude to guide the audience to the rest of the performance. She followed it up with Chaliye Kunjanamo, as the monsoons approached, adorning herself with jewels and flowers in preparation for her meeting with Krishna.  A simple, yet elegant curtained door served as an effective prop for the show, with gobos depicting clouds, sun, and ferns reflecting the changing seasons.

She then moved into a jatiswaram and ashtapadi titled Viharathi depicting spring and the bloom of flowers. But melancholy was in the spring air, as she lamented, “This is the season of love, and my love is not here with me.” The centerpiece of the performance was Nee Indha Mayam where the heroine, struck by Cupid’s arrow and madly in love with Krishna was driven to despair.  Krishna tantalized her by making his reflection appear in a lake and then disappearing in a flash.  She heard his flute and ran to see him, but he vanished again, leaving her forlorn. The dance showcased Shreya’s ability, grace, crisp footwork and fluidity of emotions, as she alternated beautifully from the mischief of Cupid, crouching carefully to aim his arrow, to the love struck despair of a woman at her wits end with Krishna’s illusions. As fall approached, the nayika’s romantic thoughts turned to rage as she learned that Krishna had cheated on her.  “But what is that I hear? He has been with another woman, while I have been here pining for him?” she said, storming off at the end of the dance in fury.

Shreya then picked it up a notch with Sakhi he, a sensuous dance reflecting the nayika’s longing for Krishna, amidst the anticipation that he is going to return. “The long winter nights make me yearn for the warmth of your embrace.” The performance ended on a high note, with the traditional tillana reflecting elation that spring is back and her friend is bringing Krishna back to her.  The event was enhanced by the deep bass voice of Raman Kalyan or ‘Flute Raman’ as he is known, who delighted the audience by both singing and playing the flute for the dances.  Vijay Ganesh performed well on the mridangam and Sandhya Srinath did a wonderful job on the violin.

Shreya reflected an amazing maturity throughout the performance for someone so young.  This was not surprising, given her background.  As the daughter and niece of dance teachers Deepti and Shruthi Mukund (sisters and founders of Natyabhoomi), Shreya grew up steeped in dance. She performed her arangetram at age 13 in Bangalore and started her own dance school in Potomac at age 15, teaching Bollywood dance. In her speech at the conclusion of her performance, she said, “Bharatanatyam for me isn’t really a hobby.  It is who I am. Being on stage is the most comfortable place for me.”

Manju Subramanya is a communications manager in the DC area, having worked in the past as a senior newspaper reporter for the Gazette newspapers in Maryland and previously for The Economic Times newspaper in Bangalore.