by Christel Stevens, Maryland 

August 2002

Raashi Rastogi
Sheila Oak
Neha Athale
The India International School and the Indian Dance Educators Association (IDEA), both centered in metropolitan Washington, DC area, joined forces to present the first graduation recital of three budding Kathak dancers on August 23rd, 2002, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A. Neha Athale, Raashi Rastogi and Sheila Oak were groomed for the recital by Mrs. Asha Vattikuti, their dance teacher for the last eight years. Mrs. Vattikuti put together an interesting program, which had academic moments and light-hearted elements in equal measure. The youthful dancers appeared together and separately, each having opportunity to display her own personality and charm.  

The program opened in traditional fashion with Rangmanch Pooja, Saraswati Vandana, and technical elements such as Thaat, Paran, Jaati, Tukda, and Gat Chaals. The dancers were appropriately attired in sparkling white dresses, with simple primary-colored dupattas for highlight. They performed with accuracy the intricate bols, and invoked Saraswati in a shower of petals. All three smiled confidently and gave a relaxed, free rendition that showed rehearsal time well spent. 

The program expanded in a variety of solos and duets. A favorite of the audience was the charming song “Ghungru Toot Gaye” performed in a nostalgic manner by Raashi, who wore a rich reddish-orange Mughal-style costume.  Sheila gained loud applause with her rendition of the classic Bindadin Maharaj composition “Ched Chadi.” Her sparkling eyes and mischievous glance from under her bright saffron veil were delightful, and her footwork was sharp and true to the taal. Neha demonstrated fast chakras in the solo item “Abke Khelungi  Holi Jhatake,” and her deep crimson ghagra swirled to perfection. The group Thumari, “Ghara Nahi Hamre Shyam,” performed in jewel-toned silk lahengas, was lyrical and technically demanding. The footwork combined smoothly with the expressional demands of the item, for a final effect of virtuosity that was quite impressive coming from a group of 17-year-olds. Their teacher, Ashaji, explained that these young dancers have been watching visiting artists presented in IDEA dance festivals for the past eight years in the Washington area, and have soaked up the good points of each and every performance to their own advantage. 

As a harbinger of future graduation recitals to be presented by the IDEA member teachers, this event was a wonderful first step. The Arlington County Commission for Arts and Cultural Affairs, a Division of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Resources, is to be thanked and congratulated for supporting the presentation of Indian dancing in Northern Virginia, where so many Indian experts have made their homes. The climate is right for increased appreciation of Indian dancing in America, and Asha Vattikuti’s students have set a fine precedent.