by Ramaa Bharadvaj 

January 2002 

A big hello to all my friends in the dance world! 

We began the New Year surrounded by the flaming energy of dance.  For 4 days, from Jan 2nd until the 5th, we lived and breathed dance at the Nations of San Diego Dance Festival at the Mandeville Auditorium in San Diego, and what an experience it was!  Even the dressing rooms sizzled with international flavors, colors, smells and sounds.   The mixed scent of varied foods – from German Bread to salsa and chips – permeated the room creating a curious aroma.  We learnt to pronounce each other’s names and dance each other’s steps; we laughed and shared stories; and we watched each other’s talents set the stage ablaze with artistry.  

There was Juanita Franco, the director of Ole Flamenco.  In her raspy and oh-so-sexy voice she taught me Spanish words and shared stories that spoke of her passion for dance.  She entertained me for four days with her sense of humor and drama and enlightened me with her wisdom and observations.  She took great delight when I answered back in her language and declared with enthusiasm that next year she would become a senior citizen and can ride the bus for free everywhere!  She insisted that I was as fiery as a Spanish Gypsy and re named me “Rama Fuerte” – which means Strong Branch in Spanish.  In turn I renamed her Juanita “Fireball” Franco! 

And how can I forget Istvan Szabo (Kovacs to his friends he said)!  This brilliant director of the Hungarian folk ensemble stole my heart – plucked it right out of my earthly body, and everybody else’s too I am sure, with his sensational solo.  Accompanied by haunting sounds of Jews Harp he leaped, stamped, clapped, jumped and kicked with lightning precision that sent sparks flying in every direction.  After the opening night’s performance he came back into the wings and walked straight up to me.  He knelt at my feet …yes my feet … raised his face, resplendent with exhaustion and glorious pain - a pain that only dancers would understand and identify with - looked at me with his gorgeous eyes, and whispered “now if I were a doctor, I would know how to cure myself.  But I am only a dancer.”  I whispered back, to myself course, “thank God you are a dancer and not a doctor”.  And for those of you who want to know what happened next, yes we did exchange e-mail addresses and plan to stay in touch and maybe dance together some day.  
And then there were those gorgeous women (with abundant hips) from the Mexican Ballet Folklorico group who flashed their pearly white teeth and jasmine smiles;  

The little 6-year old boy from the Aztec dance company who demonstrated to me how heavy his feather laden head dress was while waiting patiently for his mother to tie the wooden bells around his tiny ankles;  

The Hungarian girl whose eyes blossomed with joy when I gave her a small string of my paper jasmine flowers to keep;  

The petite giggling beauties from the Samahan Philippine dance company who would sneak up on us with their cameras, clicking candid shots of Swetha and me – completely fascinated by us;  

And the perfectly poised female dancing/drummers (or should it be drumming / dancers?) of the Korean Classical Dance Company who swept the stage like hot lava and turned into ice maidens backstage!  Brrrrrrrr!  

I met some wonderful people, some I had not seen in years and some I wish I had met years ago.  

* Bob Brown of the Center for World Music who came backstage with a “remember me?” and gave me a cuddly, cozy hug;  

* Victoria, Bob’s friend, who said she was so charmed by our performance.  I hear she owns 600 drums from all over the world.  Though she refused to talk about that and insisted on talking about me, I plan to explore the matter further. 

* Jennifer, from the Children’s Museum who attended my Friday morning workshop and stunned me with the ease with which she picked up the Indian dance moves; (a few days later, I would learn that she had studied the dances of the Tara in Nepal and had even performed in the presence of the Dalai Lama!)  

* Jarvis, a magnificently hypnotic-eyed musician from England who said he was touched and drawn by the spiritual energy in my performance and had to meet me in person.  He attended my workshop as well and invited me to join his “tribe of dancers and musicians” to create works for him and with him. 

* All of Swetha’s friends (especially Brett, Jordan and Jamus) who showered me with love and affection while I was there.  

It was all made possible by the efforts of Laura Lhotsky, the dynamic director of San Diego Dance Alliance, a woman with a focused vision and determination to match.  

And by the way … Swetha and I got a lovely mention in the review from dance critic Janice Steinberg in Monday’s edition of The San Diego Union Tribune.  I share it with all of you. 

In service to dance … 
Ramaa Bharadvaj  
Director, Angahara Ensemble 

REVIEW – SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, JAN 7, 2002 – Janice Steinberg 
“Dance from the Philippines and India are perennial Nations favorites, and the performances last weekend demonstrated why…  
An electrifying performance by Ramaa and Swetha Bharadvaj displayed the artistry of South Indian dance -- the gracefully extended arms, evocative gestures and expressive feet slapping the floor. The mother-daughter duo also brought humor into their dance with a sort of "dueling Indian dancers" section in which one of them executed a movement and then stood waiting while the other showed that she could do it, too.”  

Ramaa Bharadvaj, the Director of Angahara Ensemble in California, is a dancer, teacher, choreographer and actress with over 3 decades of creative achievements.