World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Savitha Sastry

Dance Origin: India
Artistic Director/Choreographer:
Savitha Sastry
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2009

Bharatanatyam is a temple dance form from South India, originally created to celebrate the eternal universe through the beauty of the material body. It combines bhava (spiritual emotion); raga (music); and tala (rhythm) to bring scriptures and sacred Veda texts alive. Bharatanatyam developed three forms: abhinaya is the dramatic art of storytelling; nritta is composed of pure dance movements and visual depiction of rhythms; and nritya combines both storytelling and form. Savitha's performance is an example of the nritta—pure dance form: the dancer gives herself to the higher energy flowing through her, to elicit an uplifting joy. This choreography also reflects an exciting evolution in India today, an erasing of lines between schools of nritta—pure dance. As more dancers engage in yoga and athletic activity, classical dance is moving towards perfection of form. Savitha focuses on clean lines and careful delineation of poses, and turns the space around her into geometric perfection.

The bharatanatyam costume is silk, and the traditional nine-yard sari has been replaced with a silk pajama with v-shaped pleated cloth. The dancer's jewelry reflects ornaments worn by ancient temple deities, and her makeup emphasizes her ever-moving eyes and hands.


Title: Anjali
Savitha Sastry

Anjali means "offering," and in this bharatanatyam performance, soloist Savitha Sastry invokes the guardians of different directions. The dance is traditionally performed at the opening of temple-dance performances, to clear the space of negative emotions. Savitha begins with a well-known sacred gesture—the anjali mudra. With palms pressed together, she offers unconditional thanksgiving. She raises the mudra to honor the gods; lowers it to her temple to salute gurus and teachers; and holds it before her heart to greet the audience. Then she lets go in an explosion of spontaneous dance.

The music is Carnatic classical music from South India, one of the world's oldest forms. It was composed for this piece by veteran Carnatic composer Meera Nathan and recorded in Fremont by Asha Ramesh, vocals; Ramesh Babu, mridangam; Krishna Kutty, violin; and V.K. Raman, flute. Like Hindustani classical music, Carnatic music is comprised of ragas, or melodies, and taals, or rhythms; but its emphasis is on vocals.

The piece was created in 2006 by Savitha Sastry, performed in an arangetram (solo recital) in 2006 at Santa Clara University, and set again for this performance. Savitha Sastry trained with gurus Dhananjayans and Adyar K. Laxman in Chennai for over fifteen years, studied abhinaya facial expressions with Smt. Kalanidhi Narayan and percussion with Shri Ramesh Babu. She has performed in television and film, choreographed and directed full-length productions. She is Artistic Director of Sadhana Dance Academy in San Jose, formed in 2005.

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