AABHA -The Avant-Gardes of Atlanta
December 2002 

The Bharatanatyam artists of Atlanta joined together to form AABHA, Atlanta Association for Bharatanatyam.  AABHA, initialized and conceptualized by Savitha Vishwanathan, a young graduate of Kalakshetra has 9 core members – Anupa Thakurta, Bhavini Subramani, Chandrika Chandran, Padmaja Kelam, Preetha Sayeekrishna, Preeti Shah, Srividya Raman, Savitha Vishwanathan and Uma Pulendran.  AABHA has brought a breath of fresh air to the Bharatanatyam lovers of Atlanta.  Though most of these members have diversified and adopted different career paths, they share the quest for artistic excellence.  In the Indian American society where the artists and the art teachers compete for clientele and fight a pitched battle, AABHA transformed itself into an avant-garde organization.  I was surprised to see the refreshing handshake between the Vazhuvoor, Pandanallur, and Tanjore styles and the harmonious relationship between the artists. 

I want to express my gratitude, and congratulations to this young team for taking upon themselves this Herculean task of promoting Bharatanatyam, a unique cultural Indian heritage in Atlanta.  
AABHA‘s inaugural program included a lecture-demonstration series on Bharatanatyam, which were split into 4 sessions, each lasting 2 hours.  The participants of this series of lecture-demonstrations were Anupa Thakurta, Bhavini Subramani, Chandrika Chandran, Hema Srinath, Padmaja Kelam, Preetha Sayeekrishna, Savitha Vishwanathan and Uma Pulendran.  When I was trying to initiate my daughter into the world of Indian art at an early age of 5 and wasn’t sure of myself, my husband who hails from a family of artists encouraged me to learn about the art.  He explained to me that Indian dance is a “Learned Art” and I could appreciate my daughter’s dance only if I myself cultivated an interest in it.  How true! AABHA realized the need to cultivate an educated audience.  They cautiously ventured into educating the Indian community about this ancient and most perfect form of art.  Their orientation lecture was dedicated to the seven Indian classical dance forms, the origin of classical dance and the roots of Bharatanatyam dance.  Over the next lec-dem sessions they introduced the basic elements of Nritta, Nritya and Natya to the audience.  The art of Abhinaya through Angikam, Vachikam, Aharyam, and Satvikam were explained and demonstrated.  The importance of the sister art, classical music, in dance was emphasized.  They concluded the series by exploring the concepts and actually doing all the items in a traditional Margam.  

Through out the series, they explained that despite the complexity of the gesture language of Bharatanatyam, the content could still be enjoyed with a strong sense of context and comprehended by any audience.  Yes, there were moments when they skimmed and skipped around a bit, but then again they were dealing with hundreds of years of history in an 8-hour frame.  

The conception of AABHA is a bold step, contrary to the traditional perspective but keep the perspective clear and vibrant and future generations of Indian Atlantan community will consider Bharatanatyam a serious dance form and not just a means of ethnic display.  If you have to realign the universe (in this case Atlanta) for your cause, so be it.   

AABHA can be contacted at aabha@yahoogroups.com