Navia Natarajan: a versatile dancer  
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur 

February 10, 2006 

Thiruvathira, is an exclusive festival for the women of Kerala. Thalam, a cultural organization in Thrissur, celebrated Thiruvathira enjoying the beautiful Bharatanatyam recital of a talented young dancer Navia Natarajan. Tall, graceful, nimble of body and with features meant for a dancer as per the tenets of Natya Sastra, Navia is a girl born to dance. Although she has a Masters in Microbiology, she has followed her heart to enter the field of dance. "While working as a research assistant, I felt that my involvement did not give me the sense of fulfillment and happiness that dance gives me. I felt my propensity for art forms is stronger than academics. My family supported my decision to travel the less-traveled way." 

Currently settled in the U S with her husband Rupesh, yet pulled by the umbilical cord, she comes home to India to spend months to learn dance under her gurus and give as many stage performances as possible. She started her early lessons under the tutelage of Radhika Kalyani and later under Padmini Ramachandran (Director of Natyapriya Bangalore). Now she is learning from A Lakshman, Chennai. "Learning from different Gurus has exposed me to different creative skills and different choreographic styles." Navia believes such exposure, in the long run, helps in evolving the individual style of an artist. 

Her recital started with an invocatory number, tat-tat-tatjam in raga natta set to adi tal. A Ganesh sthuthi followed, 'Sri Ganapathi ni sevim parare' in ragam Saurashtra set to adi tal. The composition, by the saint poet Thyagaraja praising Ganesa, set the tone and tenor of her margam, traditional style of dancing. 

The varnam, 'Sakhiye inthe velayil' highlighted the virahadotha khandita nayika. The verse, by Tanjore Quartet in Anandabhairavi raga, was choreographed by her guru A Lakshman. The bhava focuses on the pangs of separation and the longing of the soul for her Lord, Rajagopalan, the deity of Mannargudy. While her playful friend is thoroughly human, the lovelorn girl and her lord, magnificent and heroic in stature, dwell on the border land of the human and the divine, upholding love and beauty as truth. 

A Kannada Devar Nama, 'Pagadhi ralo ranga' portrayed the tender mother-child relation, the classic Yasoda and Krishna, of which Indian art and literature is never tired of. The mother tells her son not to venture outdoors. His devotees are waiting outside to take Him away from her. Highlighting vatsalya as the supreme passion, Navia evoked the adorable Krishna whose name lives through generations of countless boys in the Indian mind. Composed by the saint poet Purandaradasa, it proved to be an endearing piece close to our hearts in Shankarabharana ragam set to misra chappu thalam. 

The piece on Devi describing her attributes as the quintessence of the feminine, with the power of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, was a befitting item for the season of Thiruvathira. During this festival, Devi is honored in temples; Devi is invoked in human hearts. Devi, is strong and powerful like any male god in the Hindu pantheon. Only Devi has the unique power to conquer with love that lord Siva himself has to gift His half to Devi. Devi is the ideal that every woman carries in her heart. Composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar in Kamalamanohari ragam, set to adi talam, Navia's recital painted Devi as strong, powerful, benign and spiritual.  

The thillana with intricate footwork and sculpturesque poses also tinted Devi in brilliant colors for the season of the women's festival in Kerala. It was a piece by Madurai N Krishnan in Revathy ragam, set to adi talam. Somewhere, it reminds you of how unfortunate it is that the Indian male can only worship this ideal womanhood!! 

Navia's performance was a harmonious blend of bhava, nritta and nritya. Her strong point is her expressive face, an arena of myriad emotions. And her performance has a marked feature; variety and versatility.  Her recital upholds tradition in theme, form, and style, the dance and the dancer forming one joyful entity. 

Navia has many a performance to her credit both at home and abroad. The list is long. To mention a recent few - Natyanjali festival at Chidambaram temple (2002), 2002 dance festival by Sangeet Natak Akademi in Bangalore, 2004 Festival of India, organized by ISKCON Temple, USA, 2005 Performance at the Nehru Center, London. A recipient of many awards and scholarships, young Navia has great years ahead. An up-and-coming dancer, she dreams of doing a solo ballet as she establishes herself in her new home in the US. "It is challenging to reach out to the audience in America where the Indian cultural atmosphere with its myths, legends and metaphors is absent. I've started in a small way and hope to go ahead in the land of opportunities," smiles Navia with confidence. 

Padma Jayaraj is a regular contributor to