Nikita Rao presents delightful solo Bharatanatyam
- Sudha Prakash
Photos: Ramesh Rao
August 22, 2019
Nikita Rao, a senior student of Guru Viji Prakash, gave a delightful solo Bharatanatyam recital titled ‘Nrityarpanam’ on August 3, 2019 in Los Angeles. The cultural arm Kalanjali of Chinmaya Rameshwaram, Los Angeles, presented her performance at their auditorium.
Nikita Rao has been under the tutelage of Viji Prakash for the past 15 years and made her arangetram debut on September 17, 2011 in Los Angeles. She pursued her academic studies at U.C. Berkeley, graduating in Political economy. Throughout her college years, she dreamed of pursuing advanced training in Bharatanatyam, to gain performance proficiency to perform solo and choreograph her own dance pieces. Finally, after completing her academic responsibilities for graduation, she took a semester off and trained under Mythili Prakash, a performer/choreographer par excellence. Then she travelled to Chennai, India, to learn advanced techniques from dancer Malavika Sarukkai and the nuanced skills of abhinaya from Bragha Bessell. She immersed herself in learning the intricacies of Bharatanatyam, refined her practice with discipline and emerged as a confident and full-fledged performer. At the end of her training, she gave a solo recital in Chennai, which was well attended and received.
Nikita began the program with ‘Yamunashtakam’ depicting the verses by Vallabhacharya paying obeisance to the river Yamuna that traverses the Kalinda mountain dancing and weaving in and out of the mountain passes. Nikita’s fluid hand gestures and body movements gracefully depicted the glorious river Yamuna on whose banks Krishna danced with his gopis in ecstatic abandon.
She presented an elaborate varnam “Aatkolla vendum Aiyyane” in praise of Andal, a mystic poet of the 9th century South India, who worshipped Lord Krishna ardently since childhood. Nikita proved to be an evocative interpreter displaying her artistic skills in conveying the story of Andal, the daughter of devotee Vishnuchittar (Periazhwar) in Srivilliputtur. Every day Andal helped her father in making the garlands for the lord but secretly used to wear them before the offerings, imagining herself wedded to her beloved Govinda. One day her father found her hair in the garland and was furious that she was offering impure flowers to the Lord. That night, Lord Krishna appeared in his dream reassuring him that he gladly accepted the garlands as offerings of love from Andal. Nikita interpreted the verses with extensive hand gestures and myriad facial expressions beseeching the lord and beckoning him reverentially to become one with her and alternated the pure dance interludes with her dynamic footwork. Nikita depicted Andal’s beloved relationship effectively transporting the audience to Andal’s world of romance, devotion and the deep yearning for the spiritual union.
In the padam “Yaarukagilum bhayama” beautifully choreographed by Bragha Bessell, Nikita was a proud nayika dismissing the town’s gossipers with contempt. The nayika says that she does not care about the gossip linking her with the lord because her relationship with her lover is no secret. It is her good fortune that she received his attention and others are jealous of her because he did not pay any attention to them and so they are spreading rumors, which she carelessly dismisses. Nikita executed this piece with delightful haughtiness, attitude, coyness and sensuousness displaying the nuances of skillful abhinaya.
In the ashtapadi “Priye charusheele” extracted from Jayadeva’s Gita Govindam and choreographed by Nikita herself, a repentant Krishna begs for forgiveness from his beloved Radha who is angry with him for flirting with other women. Krishna pleads with Radha who is burning with jealousy and anger to place her feet upon his head to cure him of Cupid’s poison and begs her to make him virtuous just like her. In this piece, Nikita displayed the passionate, delightful, playful, romantic, divine and deeply symbolic relationship between Radha and Krishna skillfully, as she depicted the duel between the regretful Krishna and the angry Radha who is not convinced with his declaration of love and repentance.
In the Kalinga Narthana Thillana, Lord Krishna dances on the poisonous snake Kaliya with great abandon crushing him to death in the end. Nikita displayed her strength and stamina with precise, intricate and energetic footwork, dancing with her whole body through complex rhythms and melodies brilliantly executing every move. She concluded her delightful recital with a prayer song “Purnamadah Purnamidam” to thunderous applause from the audience. Nikita was ably supported by Mythili Prakash on nattuvangam who also exquisitely choreographed most of the dance items, Vidya Harikrishna on vocals, KH Vineeth on mridangam, Mahesh Swamy on flute, Sudha Iyer on violin and stage lighting by Venkat.
Sudha Prakash is a freelance reporter based in Los Angeles and has been writing about art, culture and social happenings in the greater Los Angeles area for many years. Through her writing, she wants to spread awareness about Indian arts and culture in the Western United States.