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Natyabhoomi School of Dance at Nupura 40
- Madhuchanda Bhattacharyya Bhaduri

February 13, 2019

It was the last Saturday night of the year (29 Dec 2018), people already buzzing with the New Year excitement and camaraderie. That was the night that the Nupura School of Dance chose to dedicate to those of its alumni who had themselves become dance gurus running dance schools successfully all over the world. One of these dance schools was started by Deepti Mukund Navile, Artistic Director of the Natyabhoomi School of Dance. With an illustrious beginning as an accomplished dancer, she took the giant step of opening a dance school in Maryland, way back in 1994, when she was a young professional. And never looked back since. Her younger sister Shruti joined as faculty at Natyabhoomi in 2001, infusing it with contemporary and innovative compositions and ideas. Deepti's holistic education and proficiency in Bharatanatyam is visible not only in her students' traditional dance techniques but also in her flexibility in adopting modern choreography from her peers and juniors.

Natyabhoomi group

Tanvi Navile
So we see her prowess on display in the well-choreographed Surya Kauthvam (composed by Debur Srivatsa) describing the Sun God. The three artistes (Ashmita Pyne, Tanvi Navile and Shreya Navile) who presented this piece kept alternating between being Surya and his horses and filled the stage with so much energy that you indeed felt that there were seven majestic horses driven by the handsome Sun God. The pure dance forms were sharp and vibrant and so was the emoting by the dancers.

Ishani, an ode to the female force, was conceived by Shruti Mukund. In this, the five dancers-- Ashmita Pyne, Tanvi Navile, Disha Anand, Shreya Navile and Deepti Mukund Navile - engaged in a 30-minute panorama of all the female incarnations of divinity - Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati. Excerpts from the Soundarya Lahari, Meenakshi Pancharatnam, Shyamala Navaratna Malika, Lalita Sahasranamam and Kalidasa's 'Maanikya Veena' have been used to portray the stories and essence of each Devi. The dancers made entries and exits in various permutations to give the piece a multilayered, dramatic feel - like a mythological play being enacted. The strong music composition was by Hariprasad in Ragamalika and adi tala.

Next was a solo dance number by Shreya Navile to a composition by Maharaja Swati Tirunal set to raga Brindavani and adi tala. One could almost smell the roses when Shreya mimed a typical Krishna heroine coaxing her Hari to accompany her to the garden where the flowers are in full bloom to spend time with her. She talks of the wild waters of the Yamuna in which she would want to lose herself in Krishna's arms. Alternating between playful seduction and blind devotion, Shreya's expressive eyes were made for this sort of piece.

Sa virahe tava deena presented by Deepti Mukund Navile, was a poignant ashtapadi written by Jayadeva and set to raga Darbari Kaanada. Here, one of Radha's best friends relates Radha's state of mind to Krishna - the grief of separation. She describes how Radha feels that the fragrance of sandalwood and the moon's pleasant rays mocked and hurt her and how she hid from Manmatha (the God of Love) because she didn't want to add to the pain. Bringing out the essence of an ashtapadi, Deepti used a gamut of expressions from portraying aching sorrow to lively laughter. Nrittanjali was a delightful fast-paced piece with complex rhythmic patterns composed by Lavanya Ananth in raga Brindavani.

The conclusion of the evening's performance was by the surprise package of the evening, Tanvi Navile. It was a special ritualistic dance item that is traditionally performed in temples on special occasions to pray for the prosperity of one's family. Tanvi personified a snake and displayed amazing athleticism and flexibility through entertaining serpent movements - somersaults, back flips, leg balances, and all! Finally, all the dancers were back on stage for the curtain call piece - a quick Mangalam (composed by Pandit Ravi Shankar and produced by George Harrison), which describes the tranquility on earth, in water, fire, wind, sky, sun, moon, planets, and in all living beings - mind, body and soul. A grand finale to an entertaining evening.